Saving Sweet Corn Seed

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Ken Scharabok, Aug 14, 2004.

  1. Ken Scharabok

    Ken Scharabok In Remembrance

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    To make a long story short, I have been looking all around the country for Hickory Cane corn seed. Turns out one of my neighbors grows it from seed he has been replacing for over 40 years. In the past he had told me several times what it was but I thought he was saying "Hickory King". Finally a friend translated it into "Hickory Cane".

    He called me to haul off for my cattle about 1/4" of his Hickory Cane planted this year - the part blocking his view of the mailbox. The rest he will let stand for Halloween stalks and some ears he will pick then for squirrel feed and next year's seed. He said I could have what ears he left after that.

    However, I'd like to save some of what I'm cutting now. I pulled about 24 large ears off what I just fed out. Is there anyway to store these still green ears (unshucked) so they will still produce viable seed for next year?

    Ken Scharabok
     
  2. agmantoo

    agmantoo agmantoo Supporter

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    I would air dry the ears as they are and when the kernels easily shell from the ear by hand I would place the seed in a zip lock bag and freeze until planting season.
     

  3. Ken Scharabok

    Ken Scharabok In Remembrance

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    Leave the husks on then?

    Ken Scharabok
     
  4. agmantoo

    agmantoo agmantoo Supporter

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    yes, leave the shuck on until the ears have dried. The kernels may shrivel but should still germinate. You can test the germination prior to planting by taking about 20 kernels and placing them on 3 or more paper towel sheets on a plate and then placing 3 more paper towel sheets on the top. Wet the whole thing just to saturation. Place on top of the frigerator and keep moist, after about 5 or 6 days peel the top layers back and look for sprouting. Knowing the germination will assist on how many seed to plant to achieve desired population.
     
  5. uncle Will in In.

    uncle Will in In. Well-Known Member Supporter

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    When I was but a wee lad my Dad was still planting open pollinated field corn. He had a wooden rack that was all pidgeon holes to hold the ears selected for seed. It was always a major point to sort out the largest nicest ears for seed. They felt you chances for a good crop next year would be improved that way. I wonder if that was indeed true. The corn was left on the cob without the shucks until near planting time.
     
  6. Uncle Will
    For years it was thought that the larger earns would produce similar ears but in reality all the ears grown together in the same area should have the same genetics. Today for field corn you can buy the same size kernals as that assists in planting uniformly.
     
  7. diane

    diane Well-Known Member

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    Actually, in open pollinated such as Reid's Yellow Dent, you can develop your own "strain" if you select ears to save from stalks that have what you desire. Over the years we have saved the biggest ears, from the strongest stalks, with the placement of the ear about 1/2 the way up the stalk. We now can consistantly get large ears on strong stalks with the ear placement that we desire. We only save the middle few rows of seed and we dry it on the cob, hanging in mesh bags in the barn.

    Ken, I think you might have better luck with your germination rate if you asked him for some after it had matured completely on the stalk. Doing what you are doing, saving from immature corn, might work but in the sweet corn we have saved it has not been successful unless we matured it on the stalk.
     
  8. Ken Scharabok

    Ken Scharabok In Remembrance

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    Yes, he will let me take what I want after it has completely dried on the stalks and he has taken what he wants for the squirrels and next year's seed. However, I just didn't want to see this go to waste (well, not waste as the herd would open the gate for me if they could for the stalks). I would like to save what I can of what I'm cutting now and they perhaps mix it with what comes off the stalk dried ears.

    By the way, my intend for this corn is to share it through an offer in Countryside and Small Stock Journal. Will also make the same offer to the forum when it is published there. Deal is I provide about 24 kernels to be grown for seed corn. From it I have to be sent back one pound of seed from what is harvested for future dissemination.

    About half will go to The Seeds Saver's Exchange. At one time this was a very popular corn and I would hate to see it lost completely.

    Hickory Cane was grown locally in the past as a sweet corn, creamed corn, hominy and, in particular, was prized for white corn meal. The stalks grow to 12' or more sometimes and the stalks are large enough to support at least one, sometimes two, very large ears. True Hickory Cane has eight rows of very large pure white kernels. It tastes flat compared to something like Peaches and Cream today, but at the time sure was superior to field corn.

    Saving the biggest ears reminds me of the old saying, "The race may not go to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that's sure the way to bet."

    Ken Scharabok
     
  9. diane

    diane Well-Known Member

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    What a great idea Ken!!! I am trying to save as many "heirlooms" as I can because so much is being lost. With what you have in mind.....24 seeds.....I would even more encourage you to wait for corn matured on the stalk. Might better make it available to a few less people and have it be a success. Do you really think they could send you back a pound of seed from 24 seeds?
     
  10. Ken Scharabok

    Ken Scharabok In Remembrance

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    Yes, we are talking BIG ears here. With 24 seeds I would expect them to get about 12 ears at least. Then these are BIG kernels. I'm SWAGging one ear's worth. Might change criteria to 'send me back the kernels from your biggest and best formed ear'.

    I'm hoping it works a bit on a geometic scale. If I can do it for 50 people the first year and half seed me back seed, next year I might be able to provide more seeds to more people, etc. each year. Plus, now that I know he has Hickory Cane, and not Hickory King, I might be able to talk him into growing a bit more next year. I also have an area of my cattle corral I can close off to grow some myself. Would be virtually deer proof.

    Ken
     
  11. Cyngbaeld

    Cyngbaeld In Remembrance Supporter

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    Ken, I would love to have some of the seed. I hope to be moved by next year. (Surely it won't take another year for my house to sell!). I believe the more people who have and grow the heirlooms; the better our food supply will be protected. Can you give us a 'days to maturity' on this corn? I'll be planting some other heirloom corns and would like to stagger the dates so as to avoid cross pollinating.
     
  12. Ken Scharabok

    Ken Scharabok In Remembrance

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    I don't know maturity time on this corn. I can find only passing references to it and nothing in the Seed Saver's catalog I have (from some time ago though). Have check all the seed catalogs I've received for some time with no listings for Hickory Cane. I have seen a giant Mexican white corn, but doubt it is the same corn by a different name.

    Ken Scharabok
     
  13. agmantoo

    agmantoo agmantoo Supporter

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    I would be cautious trying to plant a patch of corn with 24 seed. The problem I see is getting the corn cross pollinated with undesirable other corn. On an ear of corn each future kernal/seed has a silk protruding from the shuck. Each silk is a carrier for the fertilization of a particular kernal. It does not matter where from the ear that seed is gathered nor does the size of the ear reflect the future crop. The genetics are all in the seed on the ear, not its size or location on the stalk.
     
  14. Ken Scharabok

    Ken Scharabok In Remembrance

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    What you be the minimum required seed for strictly a seed corn patch enough to get started? If you can get one good ear, eight rows times say 40 should produce over 200 kernels for next year.

    Ken Scharabok
     
  15. agmantoo

    agmantoo agmantoo Supporter

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    I would want at least an area 12ft x 12ft. This would give 64 plants at 1 1/2 foot spacing. I would double drop each planting to ensure a good population and then I would thin as required. This should yield not less than 64 ears. The 12 x 12 is not a good dimension to work but it would ensure the best germination regardless of wind direction. I would want the planting to be several hundred feet away from all other corn.