Quality Management

Baby Corn: Have Quality and Storage life, will Export

R.K. Dhall, B.V.C. Mahajan and S.R. Sharma

Baby corn is a popular Asian vegetable. Many people presume it comes from dwarf corn plant. Infact baby corn is produced from regular corn plant which are harvested early while the ears are very immature, resulting in small ears or ‘baby corn’. Corn varieties specially bred for baby corn production are also available. Depending on variety, kernels can be yellow, white, blue or even pink. Baby corn adds a special, gourmet touch to many dishes and salads. Its miniature size is appealing, as is the taste, colour and crunch.

Market Potential

Canned baby corn sold in the US is imported from Asia; mainly Thialand. Very little fresh baby corn is available to American consumers. The superior taste and texture of the fresh product may provide a marketing edge over the more readily available canned product. So many big companies like Airtel, Reliance are exporting it in fresh form to USA

Postharvest care of baby corn 

Postharvest losses can be managed if proper care in production and postharvest handling is taken. Postharvest technology combined with preharvest technology related with shelf life can make it a profitable proposition.

Pre-harvest Practices

l Variety selection: Many common sweet corn & field corn cultivars can be used for baby corn production. Ear quality, more than yield, should be the primary objective while selecting a variety. Small kernel size, straight row kernel alignment & tapered tips are preferred characteristics for high quality baby corn. There is no taste advantage in growing a sweet corn variety over field corn, since the ears are harvested before the sugars have an opportunity to accumulate. Another factor to consider in variety selection is the ease in which the ears can be pulled from the stalk. Hybrid Parkash and Composite Kesri are most appropriate varieties of baby corn crop. They give an average 7.0 & 5.7 q/acre yield of de-husked ears respectively.

  • Planting requirements: The sowing of baby corn crop can be done at any time during April to August. It is possible to have two or more crops from the same piece of land as this crop terminates in less than 60 days. It can be produced either as a primary crop (all ears are harvested from baby corn) or as a secondary crop (the top ear is left to mature for field corn or sweet corn while subsequent ears are harvested as baby corn). The crop having row to row spacing of 30 cm and plant to plant of 20 cm using 16 kg seed/acre should be sown.
  • Since it is harvested when immature, cross pollination with other corn varieties in adjacent fields is therefore not a problem for baby corn when it is grown as the primary crop. However, when baby corn is produced as a secondary crop, cross-pollination can be problem for those ears left to develop fully. In such case, isolation among different cultivars is necessary. It can be accomplished by physical separation or by making sure there is minimum of 14 days difference in the maturities of different types.
  • Maturity indices: Baby corn is generally harvested 50-60 days after sowing. Baby corn is hand harvested just at silk emergence stage. Ears picked later on would be pithy, woody and of poor quality. Frequent harvesting of the crop at every 1 to 2 days is necessary. The harvesting period can last 2 to 4 weeks. Silk and husk from the ear should be carefully removed to avoid, so as not to break or damage to it

Post-harvest Practices

  • Pre-cooling: Rapid removal of field heat from baby corn, when 30°C or higher, is especially critical to retard deterioration. The higher the temperature, the faster sugar is converted to starch. Maximum quality retention can be obtained by pre-cooling baby corn to near 0°C as quickly as possible after harvest.
  • Grade designation and quality of baby corn: The stringent quality control regimes of the global trade should be followed. Baby corn should meet the international standards practiced across the world.

According to the International Trade Center UNCTAD/GATT, the prescribed quality standards for baby corn include

: Minimum requirements:
Baby corn shall be:
–   whole
–   sound produce affected by rotting or deterioration such as to make it unfit for consumption must be excluded
–   clean, the produce should be practically free of any visible foreign matter
–   free of damage caused by pests
–   free of abnormal external moisture
–   free of any foreign smell and/or taste
–   fresh in appearance
–   practically free of silk.
The cut that is made on the base of the cobs should be clean and well defined. A slight discolouration of the cut surface due to storage is acceptable.

  • Outer requirements: The development and condition of the baby corn must be such as to enable it:
  • –   To withstand transport and handling; and To arrive in satisfactory condition at the place of destination
  • Provisions concerning sizing: Size is determined by the length of the cob of baby corn, in accordance with the following table:

Size Code    Length (in centimetres)
A                          5.0 - 7.0
B                          7.0 - 9.0
C                        9.0 - 12.0

Size Code Length (in centimetres)
A 5.0 - 7.0
B 7.0 - 9.0
C 9.0 - 12.0


For all sizes, the minimum width should not be less than 1.0 cm and the maximum width not more than 2.0 cm.
Size Tolerances : For “Extra” Class, 5%; and for Class I or Class II 10%; by number or weight of cobs of baby corn not satisfying the requirements as regards to sizing, but falling within the class immediately above or below those indicated in above mentioned table.

  • Provisions concerning presentation & Packaging:
  • Uniformity: The contents of each package must be uniform and contain only cobs of baby corn of the same origin, quality and size. The visible part of the contents of the package must be representative of the entire contents. Packaging: The cobs of baby corn must be packed in such a way as to protect the produce properly. The materials used inside the package must be new, clean and of a quality such as to avoid causing any external or internal damage to the produce. The use of materials, particularly of paper or stamps bearing trade specifications is allowed, provided the printing or labelling has been done with non-toxic ink or glue. The cobs of baby corn shall be packed in each container in compliance with the Recommended International Code of Practice for Packaging and Transport of Fresh Fruits and Vegetables.
  • Storage : The fresh crops of baby corn can be packed in punnets, perforated polythene bags, shrinked wrapped punnets & can be stored upto 2 weeks at temperature of 2±1°C & 90-95% relative humidity. The product is very perishable & must be marketed with continuous refrigeration.


Criteria for Grade Designation.

Grade Grade requirements
“Extra” The cobs of baby corn in this class must
Class be well trimmed, free of husk, stalk and silk, intact and of superior quality. They must be characteristic of the variety and/or commercial type. They must be free of defects, with the exception of very slight superficial defects, provided these do not affect the general appearance of the produce, the quality, the keeping quality and presentation in the package.
Class I The cobs of baby corn in this class must be well trimmed, free of husk and stalk and of good quality. They must be characteristic of the variety and/or commercial type. The following slight defects, however, may be allowed, provided these do not affect the general appearance of the produce, the quality, the keeping quality and presentation in the package
Class II This class includes cobs of baby corn which do not qualify for inclusion in the higher classes, but satisfy the minimum requirements. The following defects, however, may be allowed, provided the cobs of baby corn retain their essential characteristics as regards the quality, the keeping quality and presentation:
presentation: defects in shape, colour and texture;
defects in irregular arrangement of undeveloped kernels (ovules);
defects on the surface due to bruising, scratches or other mechanical damage. The total area affected shall not exceed 10% per cob;
silk attached to and/or broken from the cob shall be minimal without affecting the appearance.

Grade tolerances

Five percent by number or weight of cobs of baby corn not satisfying the requirements of the class, but meeting those of Class I or, exceptionally, coming within the tolerances of that class.

Ten percent by number or weight of cobs of baby corn not satisfying the requirements of the class, but meeting those of Class II or, exceptionally, coming within the tolerances of that class.
In the case of cobs of baby corn with incompletely removed husk and stalk, only 5 per cent by number or weight of 0.5 cm long of the husk and stalk is allowed.

Ten percent by number or weight of cobs of baby corn satisfying neither the requirements of the above classes nor the minimum requirements, with the exception of produce affected by rotting or any other deterioration rendering it unfit for consumption.
In the case of cobs of baby corn with incompletely removed husk and stalk, only 5% by number or weight of 0.5 cm long of the husk and stalk is allowed.

 

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