A small white bowl full of baby corn
(Image credit: BWFolsom)

If you've eaten Chinese food, you've probably come across baby corn before. You've probably also thought: “is baby corn real corn?” How is baby corn made? Many people take a look at baby corn and assume it comes from a dwarf corn variety, but it's actually exactly what it sounds like: immature corn cobs. So how do you grow baby corn? Keep reading to learn about growing baby corn in your own garden.

What is Baby Corn?

We’ve all wondered about baby corn. If it is that diminutive and yet a perfect copy of a larger ear of corn, it stands to reason it came from a dwarf or miniature variety of corn. Or maybe not.

How is baby corn made? Baby corn, as mentioned above, is simply immature sweet corn. It is generally imported from east Asia and comes processed in jars or cans. In Asia, specific corn varieties are used to make baby corn, but it can be harvested from garden sweet corn as well.

How does Baby Corn Grow?

Baby corn does not need to be sweet corn -- it can be field, regular, or a super sweet variety. This is because the baby corn will be harvested before pollination, which is before any sugar has been stored in the kernels. Instead of sweetness, what counts is ear quality, small kernel size, straight rows, and tapered tips.

There are specific varieties of corn bred for baby corn production, many of which have shorter stalks or multiple stalks and yield as many as 20 ears of corn per plant.

How to Grow Baby Corn

Corn seedlings should be planted in the spring after all danger of frost has passed. Baby corn stalks can be planted much closer together than when growing full sized ears. Seeds should be sown in fertile, well-draining soil about 4 inches (10 cm) apart in rows typically 30 to 36 inches (76-91 cm) apart.

One way to grow and harvest baby corn is to harvest the lower ears for use as baby corn while allowing the upper ears to mature into full sized corn ears.

Unlike full sized corn, baby corn has few issues with pests.

Baby Corn Harvest

To harvest baby corn, you need to be vigilant. Keep an eye on the corn -- it grows rapidly. Harvesting the corn at the right time may take a little practice. Start by harvesting ears that have just had silk appear.

Harvest miniature corn ears when they are 2 to 4 inches (5-10 cm) long and the silk is evident. Harvest often, at least every two to three days since once the ears become too large, they become too tough for use as baby corn. The harvest period may last two to four weeks.

What to Do with Baby Corn

Immediately process or refrigerate the baby corn. In commercial production, baby corn is sold in the husk and must be properly cooled immediately after picking. Baby corn may be frozen, blanched, pickled, or canned.

Amy Grant

Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.