The bulk of Douglas County’s 25,000 acres or so of corn will go toward fueling vehicles or feeding livestock, but a tiny fraction of the harvest will drive an entirely different and much more demanding engine: our collective tastebuds.
Sweet corn is set to arrive on the local market next week, and area residents are looking forward to the relatively small — but still very prominent — harvest.
“That’s what we all think about when we think of corn: We think of sweet corn,” said Bill Wood, director of K-State Research & Extension in Douglas County, and fan of the tasty ears. “I’m glad people grow it, because I enjoy it.”
Fewer than 100 acres countywide are reserved for the sweet stuff, stalks reaching for the sky from seeds carefully planted nearly three months ago.
At Bismarck Gardens, Mary Ross and her colleagues in the family business anticipate selling sweet corn beginning Wednesday at their market north of Lawrence, at 1616 N. 1700 Road. From 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, the crew will be busy welcoming dozens of shoppers a day.
Wednesday’s anticipated opening will start with bags of calico corn, to be followed by yellow corn soon after Independence Day and then white corn a week after that.
Each bag is marketed as including a dozen ears of corn, which means a baker’s dozen to the folks doing the work.
“We put 13 in, just to be sure you have plenty,” Ross said.
Challenges posed by weather, insects and disease couldn’t keep the crop from producing “good, average sweet corn,” Ross said. Bismarck Gardens, entering its 29th year of operations, is set to harvest 35 acres of sweet corn through the first week of August.
Ted Grinter, well known for growing sunflowers alongside his home between Lawrence and Tonganoxie, said that his three acres of sweet corn were a little behind schedule. He hopes to be selling his ambrosia variety by July 4.
“My wife says, ‘Don’t plant anything other than ambrosia,” said Grinter, who describes the variety as especially sweet. “She only eats it one or two times per year, and it has to be perfect.”