Looking for a an heirloom sweet corn to grow? Why not try Golden Bantam 8 Row Sweet Corn.
I know you’re wondering if I ever grew it. The answer is yes, two years in a row at the urban farm site.
The reason we tried it was because according to Terroir Seeds this is the benchmark of heirloom yellow sweet corn. The stalks grow to about six feet tall. Each stalk produces two or more slender 5-7 inch cobs which have 8 rows of medium deep broad golden kernels. They have an old-time hearty flavor that is rich but not sugary sweet.
The ‘Golden Bantam’ owes its standing as the favorite of all sweet corns to its delicious flavor. But its earliness also has been an asset; and this earliness it owes largely to its not wasting time in growing seven-foot stalks. ‘The ear’s the thing!’ is its motto, and thus it has started a new era. ~ Henry T. Fink, “Gardening With Brains,” 1922
“Golden Bantam” was introduced to the public in 1902 in the Burpee catalog. The important thing to remember is that prior to 1900 most people thought yellow corn was only fit for animal feed. However, a few years after the release of the “Golden Bantam,” people in the United States began to favor the yellow corn over white, black and orange sweet corn varieties according to Victory Seeds.
So how did Burpee get the seeds? Well there is a story behind that one. In Greenfield, Massachusetts in the late 1800’s there lived an old farmer named William Chambers. He liked to provide his friends with some “choice early corn long before they had thought of having any ripe enough for the table.” The catch was he would never give them any seed to plant.
Chambers obtained some “Golden Sweet” corn which was introduced by James J. H. Gregory of Marblehead, Massachusetts in the late 1860s. Chambers worked with this hybrid for many years, selecting and refining it till he had developed the current variety. In case you’re wondering the “Golden Sweet” variety disappeared by the late 1880s due to lack of demand for yellow sweet corn.
When William Chambers died around 1891, the corn seeds were obtained by Mr. J. G. Pickett also from Greenfield, Massachusetts. He continued to grow the corn keeping the seeds pure. Then in the spring of 1990, E. L. Coy, a friend of W. Altee Burpee, was visiting family in Greenfield and was served the corn as part of his meal. Realizing the potential impact of this corn upon the seed trade, he sought out and obtained all of the seed Pickett could spare. The amount was less than two quarts.
Mr. Coy sent the seeds to W. Altee Burpee with this note: “You now own the very sweetest and richest corn ever known, and I am very glad to help you to its ownership.” Burpee trialed and increased the seed inventory before releasing the corn to the public in 1902. Now you know the whole story.