By David Marks
Sweetcorn is a genetic mutation of maize which has been cultivated in Central America for thousands of years.The key difference between the two is that maize is generally more suitable for consumption when the kernels are hard whereas sweet corn is best eaten when the kernels are soft and the liquid inside is milky.Sweetcorn, as the name implies, is sweet if harvested at the correct stage of its growth. Recent varieties have been bred to thrive in most parts of the UK / USA and similar climates.


It may be surprising to some but there are at least three very distinct types of sweetcorn and they require slightly different growing conditions.

To confuse matters even more, the three types of sweet corn have different names depending on the company selling the seed. We list below the three main types of sweetcorn, the different names used for each and briefly explain the main differences in cultivation methods.


Also known as SH2 corn. This type of sweetcorn should be grown well away from other varieties of sweetcorn if you want to retain the super-sweet taste. They are more tempremental to grow, especially in the cooler climates.

However they are the sweetest of all sweetcorn and retain that sweetness for the longest of all with the best keeping qualities if stored correctly. See our notes on how best to store sweetcorn here.


Also known as Tendersweet and SE / SE+. These sweetcorn are not quite as sweet as the super sweet varieties but are most definitely sweeter compared to standard sweetcorn. They have a storage life of about 5 days if stored correctly.

They can be grown next to the other two types without any problems. Their texture is more creamy and the skins more tender than super sweet varieties. Many people consider extra tender sweet corn to have a more authentic, full taste and easier to eat than the other two types.


Also known as SU. These are the least sweet of the varieties being the original sweetcorn varieties. Their quality is not affected when grown with other types. Their major drawback is that their texture and sweetness deteriorates at an alarming rate when picked.

Within an hour or so of picking a good proportion of their sugar will have converted to starch making them not so pleasant to eat. Cook this type within minutes of picking and you will have the very authentic taste of sweetcorn.


Another way to classify sweetcorn, especially if you want a long cropping season, is how quick they are to mature. If you sow two or three varieties with different times to maturity the harvesting period can be extended considerably. However, bear in mind that Supersweet varieties should not be grown anywhere near other Supersweet varieties.

For this reason we would suggest only growing Extra Tender varieties in the same garden if you are growing more than one variety. See our page on sweetcorn varieties for much more information on maturity times.


The choice of sweetcorn varieties is bewildering so we have created a page with detailed reviews and pictures of some of the best available. Click here to go the now and choose the best variety for your growing conditions.

Sometimes our readers ask specific questions which are not covered in the main article above. Our new
Sweetcorn comment / question and answer page
lists those comments, questions and answers. At the end of that page there is also a form for you to submit any new question or comment you have.