It’s dark, it’s mysterious and it’s oh so sweet. What would I be referring to? An heirloom corn that’s a must have for the garden. Its name – Black Aztec.
History of Black Aztec Corn
Black Aztec corn was a valuable nutritional mainstay for ancient Aztecs, who grew the crop more than 2,000 years ago. According to heirloom plant experts who have studied the rich history of black Aztec corn, a hybrid cultivar was introduced to North American growers by a Massachusetts grower named James J.H. Gregory in the 1860s.
Further Black Aztec plant information isn’t certain and growers aren’t sure about the exact origins of this newer progeny of the ancient corn. There are many theories, but there’s no doubt that it is a sweet corn with attractive, pale green leaves and jet black kernels – yes, I did say black.
At heights of only 6 feet, Aztec Black corn is a relatively small variety that works well for gardeners with limited growing space. The slender cobs measure 6 to 8 inches. At 75 to 80 days to maturity, this corn is ready to harvest a bit sooner than most varieties that may take up to 98 days.
Growing Black Aztec Corn
Black Aztec seeds may not be widely available in garden centers, but they are offered by growers who specialize in heirloom plants. Catalogs are available online.
Growing Black Aztec corn isn’t difficult, and it’s much like growing any type of sweet corn. The plant performs best when planted in blocks rather than long rows, as blocks provide better pollination. You should plant the seeds directly in well-cultivated soil a week or two after the last frost in spring, but don’t rush. Germination is delayed if air and soil temperatures are below 60 degrees F. (15 C.), and seeds may not germinate at all in chilly temps below 50 degrees F. (10 C.).
Get the plants off to a healthy start by digging plenty of rich compost or manure, along with a general-purpose garden fertilizer into the soil before planting. Water well after planting and continue to water regularly, especially when the weather turns hot and the ears are in the developmental stage. Although Black Aztec is a drought-tolerant plant, water stress results in reduced quality and lower yield. A layer of organic mulch, such as dry grass clippings or straw, keeps the soil moist and minimizes growth of weeds. Corn is a heavy feeder; fertilize the plants with a nitrogen fertilizer in midsummer and again when you see silk.