One corn, two corn, red corn, blue corn

CornAt the tea at Maggie and Heal’s, Steve brought up the fact that he wanted to grow Corn (1), as written on that original list on our whiteboard.

“You can’t have just one stalk of corn,” said one of his graduate school classmates. “You have to have a male and female stalk. They have to pollinate each other.”

“Two stalks,” Steve said. “Two stalks would be equally cool.”

I understand his impulse. I mean, it’s Iowa. Iowa is known for corn. Soybeans and corn. Pigs and soybeans and corn. I knew the stereotypes before I got here, but the first time I had Iowa sweet corn, it was a whole different ballgame.

I grew up on Eastern Shore corn, bought on the side of the road on the way to or from the beach in Maryland or Delaware, sweet as sugar and cheaper as the summer wore on. But then I helped Steve move to Iowa, and some friends of his mother invited us over for dinner. They served corn they’d picked up from a farmer who just sets bags of corn at the edge of his field every day in the summer, with an extra bag sitting there where you just put in some money after you’ve taken your just-picked cobs. It’s the honor system, and then some.

One bite of that corn, and I was hooked. I’d been told Iowa had the best corn in the world, but I scoffed at the corn cheerleaders. Suddenly, with one bite of Iowa sweet corn, I’d been proven wrong.

But, even though this is Land o’Corn, and even though I understood Steve’s impulse to grow the stuff, I didn’t feel like it was particularly necessary. If there’s one thing we can get easily and cheaply here, it’s corn. However, I was in favor of the bizarreness factor of the single stalk or stalk-pair.

The classmate continued her tale. She had seen a house somewhere in Iowa City where the owners had lined their front walk with corn. “It was functional, and native, yet funky all at the same time,” she said. “I thought it was just lovely!”

I swung my head in Steve’s direction. “We are not lining our walkway with corn.”

He held up his hands. “I didn’t say we were.”

“I’m just saying,” I said. “I don’t want you to get ideas.”

Even my mother, on the phone with me on Mother’s Day, had input on the corn situation. “You can’t just grow one corn,” she said, after visiting my blog for the first time. “You have to grow two. Or preferably a square.”

“Mom, we’re not growing corn,” I said, wondering how in the world she, the Baltimore city girl, knew the first thing about planting this particular crop.

Luckily, corn seedlings were not available at Paul’s. At least not where we looked. But, without any hint of success this year, I’m already making a mental list of things to grow next year. After all, every girl has to have a dream, and who’s to say the dream can’t include a little square of sweet corn?

Photo credit: Helmut Gevert

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