Is “baby corn” really baby corn?

A STAFF REPORT FROM THE STRAIGHT DOPE SCIENCE ADVISORY BOARD

Dear Straight Dope:

You know the "baby corn" you can buy in cans ... and you sometimes see in salad bars ... is it really "baby" corn, or is it some sort of miniature hybrid of its big cousin, corn on the cob? I've been chomping on this for a while now.

SDStaff Melis replies:

What you have there, my friend, is … baby corn! Or, to be more precise, immature cobs of sweet corn, picked off the stalk as the ear begins to develop. Think you can save some moolah and grow them in your windowbox? Sorry — the stalks develop first, and they get to be about six feet high! As a gardener, I would watch my cornstalk grow … and grow … and grow … and then see the tiny, tiny ears develop, with the strands at the end (called cornsilk, appropriately enough). Once the ear is pollinated (fertilized), the kernels will start to develop. Don’t pick the ear too soon; kernels on an unpollinated ear will be mighty sparse. But don’t wait too long, either, if you want the cob tender.

Send questions to Cecil via cecil@straightdope.com.

STAFF REPORTS ARE WRITTEN BY THE STRAIGHT DOPE SCIENCE ADVISORY BOARD, CECIL'S ONLINE AUXILIARY. THOUGH THE SDSAB DOES ITS BEST, THESE COLUMNS ARE EDITED BY ED ZOTTI, NOT CECIL, SO ACCURACYWISE YOU'D BETTER KEEP YOUR FINGERS CROSSED.

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