We had a friend in college who went on to write his doctoral thesis on the King Idrimi of Alalakh. At that time, the king was known only from a small statue in the British Museum. The statue dates to about 1400 B.C.
and was found in Syria. It is less than a foot in height. A little thing left over from a time almost forgotten.
What does that have to do with gardening in Costa Rica? Good question.
When Idrimi was a king in Syria, corn was already an ancient thing in the Americas. Along with beans and squash, it was a staple in the diet of many of the native people. Corn is just a glorified grass, like wheat and rye, and has just as long a history. It began life as a primitive and was sculpted by man’s hand into something wonderful, rich, and full. The problem? We are used to good ol’ Iowa sweet corn, and you just can’t find it in Cost Rica.
As it turns out, sweet corn is one of those finicky crops that require a certain amount of daylight to thrive. 14 to 16 hours of daylight would be just about perfect, and we get a measly twelve hours. Corn doesn’t care how intense the light is, it only cares how long the sun is in the sky. It would have to be something we can’t fix. Bummer.
Evidently, though, people in Hawaii have just as much an interest in eating sweet corn and just as much trouble with sunlight as we poor expats in the tropics. Enter the University of Hilo Department of Agriculture which started fiddling with corn varieties decades ago (no GMOs for them, just sampling, cross-fertilizing, and good hard work) and has come up with a short-day sweet corn in several varieties! The problem? Getting the seeds into Costa Rica is the problem.
It would seem to me that a good sweet corn would be a valuable crop for local farmers. Sweet corn loves hot weather and lots of sun (ask anybody in Iowa), and we have both. It doesn’t care much for heavy rain (local corn seems to love the rainy season) so, with a little irrigation, it could be raised in the dry season. And it’s delicious. It would add some more variety to the local diet. It would also be a nice cash crop because those of us who grew up with sweet corn really miss it.
How about it, CR? Ready for good ol’ Iowa sweet corn?