Warehouse Hours Fedco Seeds: pickup of online orders only Organic Growers: curbside shopping and pickup of online orders Directions to our Warehouses All of our warehouses are closed to the public .
TripleSweet® Sugary Enhanced: has homozygous se kernels, and 25% of these also contain the sh2 trait.
Supersweet (sh2): 4 to 10 times the sugar content of su and se . Conversion of sugar to starch occurs at a much slower rate. Stays sweet long after harvest. Extra shriveled seed does not germinate well in cool soil.
For the latest results of our germination tests, please see the germination page.
Sugary Enhanced (se): more sugar than su , tender kernels & slightly longer storage time. The * indicates heterozygous (only one parent contributes the se gene); all others are homozygous (both parents se ).
Flour, Flint, Dent. Corn!
Flour corn has soft starchy kernels easily ground into flour. Flint corn has hard flinty kernels that store well and is often used to make corn meal, polenta or grits. Dent corn with indented kernels is eaten fresh as elote or dried and ground into fine cornmeal flour, or used in alkaline cooking processes to make masa, tortilla chips or pozole. (Dent is also most commonly used for processed foods and ethanol production.) Field corn can be any of the above when used as animal feed, though most typically dent is used. (Also see Field corn from Organic Growers Supply).
636 Luther Hill – Organic.
Corn Earworm Cultural controls: use resistant varieties with tight husks such as Bodacious RM or Silver Queen, choose short-season varieties, release trichogramma wasps. (Beneficial insects are available at insectary.com or 800-477-3715.) Material controls: Bt kurstaki, Spinosad.
Normal Sugary (su): standard varieties with traditional sweet corn texture & flavor. Sugar converts to starch quickly, so eat them within a few days. Tend to have high yields and germinate well in cool soils.
European Corn Borer (ECB) and fall armyworm Cultural controls: mow and disk old corn stalks into the soil, release trichogramma wasps (found to give better control than insecticides in research by Cornell’s IPM program on five organic farms) for ECB; none known for fall armyworm. Material controls: Bt kurstaki, Spinosad.
Culture: CAUTION: Untreated sweet corn seed will not germinate in cold wet soil. Please be patient and wait till soil warms to at least 60° before sowing, or start seedlings indoors and transplant at 3–6" before taproots take off. Minimum soil temperature 55°, optimal temperature range 65–85°. Tender, will not survive frost. Heavy nitrogen requirements. Rows 3′ apart, 4 seeds/ft. Thin to 1′ apart. When corn is knee-high, sidedress with azomite or alfalfa meal to stimulate growth. Plant in blocks of at least 4 rows to ensure adequate pollination, essential for good tip fill. If you lack sufficient space for enough plants for good pollination, try hand-pollinating by cutting off the tassels and shaking their pollen onto the silks. Sweet corn is ready 18–24 days after the first silks show, the exact time dependent on the weather in the interim. Press ears 2" from the tips to assess kernel fullness. Harvest when the kernels are plump, soft, tender and filled with a milky juice. Most sugary enhanced varieties have an optimal picking window of 5–7 days, but some open-pollinated selections hold only 1–2 days.
Zea mays (82 days) Open-pollinated. This rarely-offered heirloom developed by Luther Hill of Andover Township, NJ, in 1902, is one of the parents of the venerable Silver Queen. The most popular sweet corn in parts of New Jersey for more than 50 years. Sweetest OP corn I’ve ever tasted, Luther makes multiple 12-row, 3–6" long miniature ears on modest 4′ stalks. Because the suckers often yield good ears, each plant, if spaced widely, can make up to four ears. A great way to introduce yourself to sweet corn the way it was before the hybrids took over. ①
Testing: To help ensure the purity of our seed, we have for the past seventeen years employed industry leader Foodchain ID (formerly Genetic ID) to test samples of our sweet corn lots for the presence of transgenic contamination. Because of the risks posed by production of genetically engineered Roundup Ready beets, we have added beet and chard varieties to our GE testing program. We remove any seed lots that test positive for transgenic contamination. A negative test result does not guarantee genetic purity but improves the chances seed is uncontaminated. The tests are expensive, but in a time of genetic roulette they are necessary, though not sufficient. Only if the seed trade takes an adamant position that it will not tolerate GE contamination in products can we maintain any integrity in our seed supply.
Sweet corn first appeared in commerce in 1828 and became popular a generation later. The first crop to be hybridized; most of the open-pollinated varieties disappeared between 1930 and 1970. All sugary enhanced sweet corn traces back to a single inbred developed in the 1960s in Illinois by Dr. Dusty Rhodes, ILL677a. Our trialers have found SE corn to be especially suitable to our climate, with good cool-soil tolerance and a near-perfect blend of sugars and corn flavor.
Synergistic: more sugar than se . Very tender with long harvest and storage windows. Can be homozygous or heterozygous se with added sh2 kernels.
Sweet Corn at a Glance.
Phone Hours Monday–Friday from 9–5 Holiday Hours We will not be open December 24 & 25 and December 31 & January 1.
Types of sweet corn.
Martin Luther burning the Papal Bull.
Martin Luther King Jr. being shoved back by Mississippi patrolmen during the 220-mile "March Against Fear" from Memphis, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi.
The religious reformer and civil rights icon were born a half-millennium and thousands of miles apart, but shared many similarities, besides their name.
Both arrived at just the right time.
Photo: Underwood Archives/Getty Images.
King's anger wasn't geared toward the Church, but at a system of racial segregation that had become ensconced in everyday life and law since Reconstruction, one acutely felt by a highly intelligent and able African-American boy raised in the Jim Crow South.
King, meanwhile, found his non-violent methods falling out of favor during the turbulent 1960s, with an increasingly fractured and impatient base turning to the more radical voices of Malcolm X, Huey Newton and Stokely Carmichael.
In 1934, an African-American Baptist minister named Michael King made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and attended an international conference in Germany, where he learned about a native son and Protestantism founder Martin Luther. Inspired by the life and deeds of the 16th-century monk, King changed both his name and that of his young son, who became known to the world as Martin Luther King Jr.
Photo: Popperfoto/Getty Images.
Thus marked the first and clearest connection between the two famed men. But while they were from different generations and countries, they had much more in common in their paths to a place in the history books.
They were acclaimed for their writing and communication skills.
Frustrated by the hypocritical practices of the Church, Luther was particularly incensed by the selling of "indulgences," in which people essentially paid for the grace of God to fund such lavish projects as the new St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. He eventually determined that there was no need for a controlling and corruptible Church hierarchy; one could achieve salvation simply by putting their faith in Christ and looking to Scripture as the central religious authority.
King's method of civil disobedience, meanwhile, made him a prime target of both the police and violent extremists. He was arrested nearly 30 times during his dozen-plus years in the public eye and survived an assassination attempt a decade before the one that took his life April 4, 1968.
Along with his 95 Theses , Luther penned both the Small and Large Catechisms as the foundation for the new Christian denomination, Protestantism, and helped make the Bible a household item by translating the Old and New Testaments into German. By the time of his death in 1546, he was the author of a third of all German-language books in publication.
Similarly, efforts to organize and empower African Americans had been around since before King was born, but the courageous stand of Rosa Parks presented a ripe opportunity for King to enter the limelight with the Montgomery Bus Boycott and assume leadership of the burgeoning civil rights movement.
Luther and King wanted to overturn the powers that be.
Whether overwhelmed by ailments or emboldened by years of escaping the wrath of authorities, Luther threw all restraint to the wind over his final decade. His 1543 work On the Jews and Their Lies summed up his feelings about that group, though he also had harsh words for the Pope, "godless monks" and other members of the clergy.
King's case is more nuanced. While he never succumbed to age-inflicted bitterness — in part because he was killed before turning 40 — he did pivot to causes that failed to strike a unifying chord, including an anti-Vietnam War crusade and a "Poor People's Campaign" for economic change. Toward the end of his life, a major poll found that nearly two-thirds of Americans held an unfavorable opinion of the civil rights icon.
King also produced a large trove of written works, including the book Why We Can't Wait and his seminal "Letter from a Birmingham Jail."
Extending those lines of communication, both men were acclaimed for their oratorical skills. King is more famous in this arena, thanks to surviving footage of his powerful speeches, but Luther also developed a reputation as a compelling lecturer at the University of Wittenberg.
The story of Luther dramatically nailing his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church to demand change may not be true, but the widespread distribution of the document had the same effect. He was excommunicated by Pope Leo X in early 1521 and staunchly defended his beliefs before a hostile audience at the Diet of Worms a few months later, the charges of heresy carrying the genuine threat of a death sentence.
Burbank’s prolificacy grew out of a creativity that could seem almost shameless. He was willing to cross just about anything that had leaves: a plum with an apricot (originally a plumcot, now a pluot); a tomato with a potato (a worthless novelty); a blackberry with an apple (no clue); a peach with an almond (!). Burbank’s theoretical validation came from Charles Darwin and his 1876 survey, “The Effects of Cross and Self Fertilisation in the Vegetable Kingdom,” which Burbank seems to have mistaken for a how-to manual. He called himself an “evoluter” of plants.
Gettle, who is thirty-five years old, learned to read from a seed catalogue. In his book “The Heirloom Life Gardener,” he relates how his parents moved back to the land, schooling him at home in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri. By the time he was seventeen years old, he had started his own seed business. His first catalogue was a twelve-page list of seventy-five traditional varieties that he had sown and collected on the family farm. Last year, Gettle’s company, Baker Creek Heirloom Seed, reached seven hundred thousand customers and advertised more than eighteen hundred seed varieties. He told me that catalogue sales topped seven million dollars.
In the mid-nineteen-thirties, a California pomologist named W. L. Howard began compiling a list of plants. He intended to enumerate the botanical creations of the legendary American horticulturalist Luther Burbank. The task took him ten years. Howard’s completed inventory begins with the word “briefly” and then runs on, in list form, for more than ninety pages. Burbank had invented flowers, grasses, cacti, tubers, grains, fruits, and vegetables, more than eight hundred varieties in all. A great many of them—most of them, even—had been lost in the decades since his death, in 1926.
It’s a fair argument. But how far forward can you march when you’re looking backward? Dan Barber, the executive chef of Blue Hill at Stone Barns, in New York, has described our obsession with heirlooms as largely “nostalgic.” In an interview with Food & Wine , he said, “It’s not the future of great eating. We know so much more about how to breed seeds for flavor.” Barber recruited an ally in Michael Mazourek, a vegetable breeder from Cornell University who has been collaborating with the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture on a winter squash called the Honeynut. “Much of the heirloom seed is like the antiques stored in the attic or out in the barn,” Mazourek told me. “It tends to have been neglected. It’s sitting how your grandparents left it.” He added, “It needs some kind refurbishing.”
Burbank was a small-time farmer when, in 1872, he discovered a blockbuster potato strain; closing in on its sesquicentennial, the Russet Burbank remains a potato of choice for the McDonald’s French fry. Until the middle of the twentieth century, in fact, almost every farmer was an erstwhile Burbank. In the fall, when you gathered, say, your muskmelon seed for the next year’s crop, you selected it from the most robust and productive vines. An exceptional fruit might earn its own name and a regional reputation. The advent of industrial agriculture, however, demanded a new type of food plant, one that would thrive under heavy applications of chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides—and look palatable at the end of a cross-country truck ride. The seed trade became the province of national agribusinesses and their hybrid seed—that is, proprietary plant crosses that farmers had to buy anew each year. This was the environment in which, in 1975, an organization called Seed Savers Exchange began a mission to stanch the loss of the country’s agricultural heritage. Old seeds got a new name: heirlooms.
The West Virginia team began by hunting for remnants of Burbank’s work, settling on a few likely descendants. From there, the effort took a modern turn. Burbank would have grafted thousands of seedlings at a time to quicken the arrival of test fruit, intending to shock nature into novelty with all the tools at his disposal. The new breeders inserted a flowering gene from a poplar plant. The result is a plum that fruits continuously, making it easier to study. (A Frankenfruit? Maybe, but then what is a pluot?) At a critical time after pollination, the researchers observed, the plum’s endocarp cells form the lignin of a hard pit. Comparing Burbank’s great-grand-plums with the typical fruit during this window, they identified more than two thousand genes that were expressed differently. The idea is that genetic engineering could either eliminate these endocarp cells, or convert the endocarp into mesocarp—stone into flesh.
In “The Garden of Invention,” her 2009 biography of Burbank, Jane S. Smith notes that “there are not very many agricultural celebrities.” (Try to name a living one.) Yet the Times saw fit to report both Burbank’s marriage to his secretary and the death of his dog, at the age of twenty-one, a full eleven years after his master. Burbank’s fame and stature can be gleaned from a photograph that commemorates the day, in 1915, when Henry Ford and Thomas Edison made a pilgrimage to his home grounds. Three men in dark suits sit on a stair, hats politely in hand. In the business of American progress, they were coequals.
As it happens, this is a serendipitous week to go rooting through the back forty of American horticulture. Five years ago, a vintage seedsman named Jere Gettle co-founded the National Heirloom Exposition, which bills itself as “the world’s pure food fair.” This year’s edition, which started Tuesday, is expected to draw some fifteen thousand visitors to the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. The three-day lineup includes an antique-tractor show, an old-time-fiddlers’ contest, and a headline lecture series, whose leading topic seems to be the perniciousness of genetically modified foods, presented by speakers who speculate that the herbicide glyphosate (a.k.a. Roundup) may trigger autism, and who cite as credentials their status as moms and dads. You won’t have time for everything.
Were he alive today, Howard, the pomologist, would likely be flummoxed by the heirloom revival. Burbank’s plants, he wrote in 1945, disappeared for the simple reason that, every ten years or so, public tastes change and something better comes along. Smith, for her part, notes that Burbank had the good fortune to practice his breeding “at a time when the vast majority of people agreed that improving nature was, in fact, a very good thing to do.” That would appear to be a fringe opinion at the Heirloom Expo. Many of the heroes of the modern food movement—Michael Pollan, Gary Paul Nabhan, Alice Waters, and Jere Gettle, too—have lamented the predominance of hybrids, not just G.M.O.s. Most hybrid produce, they say, was bred for uniformity, predictable ripening, and efficient transportation rather than for flavor or nutrition.
One such refurbishment project is taking place at the Appalachian Fruit Research Station, in West Virginia: an attempt to perfect Luther Burbank’s stoneless plum. Having imported a small shipment of plum seedlings by boat from Yokohama, Japan, in 1885, Burbank proceeded to develop a hundred and thirteen named varieties of the fruit. His introductions became the foundation of the modern Japanese-type plum and also of the California prune. But his highest achievement as a fruit breeder may have been a pair of French-type plums, Miracle and Conquest, that grew without a pit in the center. In some samples, a few edible grains of pit remained, however, and Burbank considered his breeding work unfinished. Those plums are now missing, as are their nonexistent stones.
If that feat of breeding ever proves possible, there’s still work to do on Luther Burbank’s spineless cactus.