I don’t buy many canned goods, but I do like to keep stocked up on canned corn. This product is just so useful, good as a side with any main dish. Besides that it tastes great and up until now, was very inexpensive. That has changed.

As with everything, the price of corn has risen, but that’s not the full extent of the problem. Corn, both canned and frozen, is hard to come by. The big conglomerates that raise corn on a grand scale now must supply not only the consumer market and the animal feed market, but also the fuel market. More corn is being taken out of the food chain and shuttled off to be turned into Ethanol. We may not like it, but there is nothing we can do about it now.

What’s more, with shortages and skyrocketing costs of so many other food items, things may become dicey for the consumer come next winter. Which brings me to the main thought for this column. Plant a garden. Never, since World War II, was the need for homegrown produce more profound.

Anyone, if they have access to sunlight, can grow a garden, even if it is a container garden on a balcony. Most of us, though, have enough space to grow more than just a few items.

Vegetable choices

The bulk of crops in this year’s garden ought to consist of something that can be preserved by either freezing or canning. Drying comes in a close third. Here’s what I mean.

So many of us love our fresh garden salads. We plant tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce and have homegrown salads for perhaps six weeks out of the year. So popular are these salad ingredients some people devote most of their garden space to them. But after the first frost, the tomatoes and “cukes” are done for the season and lettuce isn’t far behind. I’m afraid now we should devote more garden space to such staples as root crops, beans, cabbage and corn.

Beans are one of my main crops and I grow green beans, wax beans and pole beans. The pole beans go through a bean Frencher to be sliced into French-style beans and frozen. All these can be either frozen or canned. And if you are leery about canning, buy an electric pressure cooker. These make canning easy, cutting out the guesswork of setting the heat on an old-fashioned jiggler.

I centered this article on corn, and for good reason. It keeps remarkably well in the freezer and is easy to can too. I’m not talking about putting up corn-on-the-cob, because that takes up too much freezer space. Instead, try boiling the ears, allowing them to cool and then slicing them off the ear. Then, fill some folding-top sandwich bags and then placing the filled bags in regular freezer bags. This two-layer system keeps your produce fresh and avoids freezer burn.

Now here’s something else about sweet corn. Many gardeners avoid corn because it takes up too much space. And it does, but only if you let it. Planting closer together saves space and even helps in pollination. Corn is wind-pollinated and the closer the stalks are, the easier they are pollinated.

But it doesn’t end there. Corn works well in containers, too. I frequently wrote about the Earth Box growing container and continue to recommend it. I have grown enough corn in one Earth Box to give me over two dozen ears. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but if you slice every kernel off the ears, it gives many, many meals.

Not too late

It’s not too late to start a garden. Just remember to plant with an eye toward putting up your crops. You’ll be happy you did, when the shelves are bare or prices are so astronomically high that you can’t afford to buy enough food to get by on. This situation can’t last forever, but it is with us now and we need to plan ahead.

Tom Seymour, of Frankfort, is a homeowner, gardener, forager, naturalist, registered Maine Guide, amateur astronomer, magazine and newspaper columnist, and book author.