Bread and butter corn is a yellow corn variety with a creamy, smooth texture. It is known for its sweet, buttery taste and large, plump kernels. Bread and butter corn is a favorite for eating fresh off the cob, using in recipes, and freezing or canning for later use.
What are the characteristics of bread and butter corn?
Bread and butter corn has several defining characteristics that set it apart from other corn varieties:
- Color – Kernels are golden yellow.
- Texture – Kernels have a creamy, smooth texture when raw or cooked.
- Flavor – The corn has a sweet, rich, buttery taste.
- Kernels – The kernels are large and plump compared to other varieties.
- Rows – There are usually 16-20 rows of kernels per cob.
- Height – Plants grow to 6-7 feet tall.
- Yield – Each plant produces 1-2 large ears of corn.
- Season – Bread and butter corn is considered a mid-late season variety, ready for harvest 80-90 days after planting.
The combination of its sweet flavor, tender texture, and large, buttery yellow kernels make bread and butter an excellent all-purpose variety.
Where did bread and butter corn originate?
The exact origins of bread and butter corn are unknown, but it is thought to have originated and been cultivated in the United States in the late 19th century.
As its name suggests, it likely became popular because it had qualities ideal for eating fresh with butter, resembling a slice of bread and butter. The earliest known commercial seed catalog listing for a “Bread and Butter” sweet corn variety is from 1903.
Over the decades, improved varieties of bread and butter corn have been developed through plant breeding, but it remains a beloved heirloom type of corn today.
What are the most popular uses for bread and butter corn?
Some of the most popular uses for bread and butter corn include:
- Eaten fresh – Bread and butter corn is arguably at its best eaten fresh, right off the cob. The sweet, creamy kernels are perfect with just a bit of butter, salt, and pepper.
- Frozen – The variety freezes well, retaining much of its sweet flavor and smooth texture. Kernels can be cut from the cob and frozen in bags.
- Canned – Bread and butter corn cans well when harvested at peak ripeness. Canning helps preserve the fresh taste.
- Casseroles and soups – The corn can be used in all kinds of soups, stews, casseroles, and corn breads.
- Corn fritters – When combined with flour and eggs, bread and butter corn makes delicious fried fritters.
- Creamed corn – The tender kernels are ideal for making creamy creamed corn side dishes.
- Corn salad – Chilled bread and butter corn kernels, diced vegetables, and a vinaigrette make a refreshing salad.
The sweet flavor and smooth texture allows bread and butter corn to shine whether served raw, cooked, or processed.
How does the flavor and texture compare to other corn varieties?
Compared to other popular sweet corn varieties, bread and butter corn has some notable differences:
|Bread and Butter
|Very sweet, buttery taste
|Sweet, mild corn flavor
|Sweet, signature corn flavor
As the table shows, bread and butter corn really stands out for its uniquely sweet, buttery flavor and exceptionally smooth, creamy texture when cooked. Other popular sweet corn varieties like Jubilee, Honey Select, and Silver Queen have great flavor and texture but in different ways.
What are the best ways to grow bread and butter corn?
Here are some tips for successfully growing bread and butter corn:
- Climate – Bread and butter corn needs warm soil and air to germinate and grow well. It thrives in areas with sunny, hot summers. Provide full sun.
- Soil – Plant in fertile, well-draining soil rich in organic matter. The ideal soil pH is between 6.0-6.5.
- Planting – Sow seeds 1 inch deep, 4-6 inches apart in rows 30-36 inches apart once soil reaches at least 60°F. Plant in blocks of short rows rather than long rows to improve pollination.
- Fertilizing – Apply a balanced fertilizer when planting. Side dress with nitrogen once plants are 18 inches tall.
- Watering – Provide consistent moisture, about 1-2 inches per week. Water at the roots and avoid wetting leaves.
- Pollination – Plant in blocks to ensure adequate pollination. Bread and butter corn is usually an inbred variety requiring pollen from another plant to produce ears.
- Pests – Watch for corn earworms, corn borers, birds, raccoons, and other ear-feeding pests. Control with organic methods as needed.
With proper care in suitable growing conditions, bread and butter corn is relatively easy to grow. Pay close attention to watering, fertilizing, and pest control.
When is bread and butter corn in season?
Bread and butter corn is usually ready for picking 80-90 days from when the seeds are sown. This makes it a mid-late season variety.
Here are the approximate bread and butter corn harvest seasons for different regions:
- Southern regions – Mid June to August
- Midwest region – July to September
- Northern regions – August to October
- Coastal regions – July to September
The sweet corn harvest typically lasts 4-6 weeks in each area before plants stop producing new ears. Corn should be picked once the silks are brown and dry and kernels are plump and yellow with a milky inner fluid. The peak season for flavor and sweetness is short lived.
How should bread and butter corn be stored?
To retain the sweet, buttery flavor and creamy texture of bread and butter corn, it’s best to use fresh picked corn right away. If that’s not possible:
- Store whole unhusked ears in the refrigerator in damp paper towels or plastic bags for 2-3 days max.
- Cook and freeze kernels on the same day of harvest. Blanch kernels 2-4 minutes before freezing in airtight containers up to one year.
- Can freshly picked corn. Pressure canning whole kernels in jars retains flavor well for 18 months or more.
- Pickle corn to make a fermented corn relish. The acidic brine preserves the texture for up to a year in the fridge.
Avoid storing fresh husked corn in the refrigerator, as the sugars quickly convert to starch and quality declines. Short term cold storage of unhusked ears, freezing, canning, and pickling are the best ways to extend shelf life.
Are there any common diseases or problems?
Some potential problems to watch for when growing bread and butter corn include:
- Downy Mildew – Fungal disease creating yellow leaf spots. Manage through crop rotation and fungicides.
- Corn Smut – Fungal disease forming swollen galls on ears, leaves, and stalks. Remove infected plants to control spread.
- Corn Borers – Caterpillars that bore into stalks and ears. Control with Bt spray or preventive insecticides.
- Corn Earworms – Worms that feed on silks and kernels. Hand pick worms and apply Bt spray at silking.
- Viruses – Transmitted by insects, causing stunted plants and poor ear fill. Control insect vectors and rogue infected plants.
- Drought stress – Leads to poor pollination and unfilled ears. Maintain consistent soil moisture.
Scouting regularly for pests and diseases allows early intervention. Maintain proper irrigation, drainage, and air circulation to avoid fungal issues.
What are some recommended bread and butter corn varieties?
Some of the most recommended modern bread and butter corn varieties include:
|Vigorous 8 inch ears with sweet flavor, widely adaptable
|6-7 inch small ears, very sweet and tender kernels
|TripleSweet variety, 6-7 inch ears, premium sweetness
|7 inch ears, thick kernels, retains sweetness longer
|Disease resistant, 7-8 inch ears, excellent flavor
There are also many high-quality heirloom varieties like Country Gentleman, Stowell’s Evergreen, and Golden Bantam with that classic bread and butter corn flavor and texture. Talk to your local nursery to find the best varieties to grow in your climate.
Is GMO bread and butter corn available?
There are some genetically modified (GMO) sweet corn varieties sold that have the bread and butter corn trait, like Attribute sweet corn from Syngenta.
GMO bread and butter corn is engineered to be insect resistant by inserting genes from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) into the corn’s genome through biotechnology. This allows the corn plants to produce Bt proteins that are toxic to certain pests like corn borers and earworms when they feed on the plant.
However, traditional non-GMO bread and butter varieties are still widely available from seed companies and nurseries. There are also organic bread and butter corn seeds and ears that cannot be genetically engineered under the USDA organic regulations. If you wish to avoid GMOs, look for certified organic, Non-GMO Project Verified, or heirloom variety seeds clearly marked as non-genetically modified.
Bread and butter corn lives up to its name, producing exceptionally sweet, buttery yellow kernels perfect for eating fresh or cooked in recipes. This versatile heirloom variety has a well-earned place at the table and in the garden. With proper care, growers can harvest an abundant crop of this classic sweet corn through the summer months. Whether you save it for special occasions or make it an everyday essential, bread and butter corn is a rewarding variety to add to the garden.