Tuberoses

The tuberoses have been blooming in the garden for a week or so.

When they first started blooming, I actually smelled them before I saw them, which is not surprising since tuberoses are one of the most fragrant flowers you can grow.  They produce so much fragrance that farmers plant fields of them that they sell to perfume makers. The sweet scent is most noticeable in the evening.

Tuberoses don’t tolerate cold temperatures so you have to wait until the soil warms up.  Because it took so long for the soil to get warm this season, I planted mine around the beginning of June.

They require very little care and don’t mind being neglected for a while.

These tuberose flowers measure about one and a half inches across.
These tuberose flowers measure about one and a half inches across.

The grassy-looking leaves on tuberoses are not particularly eye-catching so, you can’t count on the foliage to make a dramatic impact in the landscape. It’s all about the flowers and their aroma. They make excellent cut flowers too.

You can save tuberoses by digging the tubers up before frost. Keep them warm in storage –above 50 degrees F — and dry over winter.

By digging and saving your tuberoses each year, you can quickly build up a large number of tubers to use each year in your garden.

Bob

Corn smut the Mexican truffle

While picking my sweet corn this year, I’ve noticed a higher than normal amount of ears with corn smut growths.

Corn smut is a fungal disease that infects all types of corn but sweet corn is most susceptible to it. The fungus invades the corn tissue and causes the corn plant to form a gall-like growth. We usually see these growths on the ears of the corn but they can also occur on the tassel and other parts of the plant.

It’s just about impossible to eliminate corn smut. The fungus can live year after year in the garden soil and will reinfect a sweet corn crop each season. Plus the spores of the fungus is easily carried by the wind from infected plants.

There is no spray or seed treatment for this problem. The usual control suggestion is to cut out the infected plants and burn them before the smut has a chance to form spores.

This year however, I’ve decided not to fight corn smut but instead embrace it.

My huitachole is past the stage for eating.
This corn smut is past its prime for harvesting.

South of the border — I mean Mexico, not Ohio — corn smut is a delicacy. Since smut is a fungus, it is used much like mushrooms which are fungi too. Some people call it Mexican truffle, in Mexico it’s called huitlacoche. Mexican farmers, instead of destroying the infected plants, harvest the growths and sell them at a premium price.

My corn smut is past its prime — it’s filled with dried spores — so I didn’t have chance to try it yet. I have one more crop of sweet corn coming on and I’m looking forward to my huitlacoche harvest!

Bob