This is the first year I planted Painted Mountain Sweet Corn. Directions on the package said it would take up to ten days to germinate and 65 days to harvest sweet corn. It broke through the ground in three days. Harvesting came a full ten days early. Like so many other areas in the US, high temperatures and dry weather brought the corn to maturity early. Once we checked an ear, we only had three days to harvest and put up 29 rows. Even then, some ears had passed their prime.

This is the first year I planted Painted Mountain Sweet Corn. Directions on the package said it would take up to ten days to germinate and 65 days to harvest sweet corn. It broke through the ground in three days. Harvesting came a full ten days early. Like so many other areas in the US, high temperatures and dry weather brought the corn to maturity early. Once we checked an ear, we only had three days to harvest and put up 29 rows. Even then, some ears had passed their prime.
Painted Mountain is an unusual sweet corn. Dave Christensen has dedicated himself to finding a corn that can withstand cold, heat, and drought. It does best with good fertility, but is bred to handle poorer soil. It can be planted when the soil temperature is 55 degrees. My corn germinated without additional water, another plus. The bed was watered three times the entire season even though we have had little rain.
Painted Mountain is somewhat unique. Starting in the 1970s, Mr. Christensen took samples from over 70 open pollinated corns. Some sweet, some flour, and some with specific genetic traits are used to keep the corn as diverse as possible. Many of the varieties are Northern Native American heirlooms that will be lost forever without this man’s efforts. It is a general all around usage corn.
I love corn. What I discovered is the wonderful corn flavor backed by a gentle sweetness. First grown and sold as an ornamental corn, Painted Mountain soon became a mainstay for sustainable farming. It can be eaten fresh in the garden or boiled and buttered. Later, it makes a soft starch flour that can be ground in a mill or blender.
Maybe the best part of Painted Mountain is the eye feast. The stalks are dark green, light green, red, and almost black magenta. The tassels are red, magenta, orange, yellow, and pale green. The silks are yellow or deep magenta. But the best colors are in the dry corn; possibly dozens of different colors including the starred, speckled, and striped kernels.
Painted Mountain is high in anthocyanins, the ‘water soluble pigments responsible for red, blue, and violet color in plant matter. They are powerful antioxidants in vitro and have shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic capabilities in various laboratory studies’ 152181716 (et al.).
Mr. Christensen says, ‘The only way to kill the corn is to water it too much’. I won’t go that far, but when strange cold, warm, freezing, hot weather kicked in this spring, Painted Mountain shrugged off the changes. To protect itself, leaves curl inward during a drought. It’s able to grow in my rocky clay soil and still produce corn. All around, this corn outdid all my expectations. I’ll try it again next year in more fertile soil.
Tomatoes came in full force, too. The amaranth needed to be harvested and dried for milling. Cantaloupes, muskmelons, and watermelons have all matured early. A small rain last week took its toll on the ripening melons by bursting the sides. Also, rain at that time makes the sugars less intense.
Squash has outdone itself. Even with the squash bugs, there are dozens of ripening winter squash. Blackberries are huge for the dry weather. Only the blueberries will be a loss.
Happy Gardening!
Linda Simmons writes a column for the Neosho Daily News.