Man accidentally grows corn stalk with record-shattering 28 ears
DEPTFORD - Jersey corn might be about to get more famous.
A Deptford man believes a cornstalk growing in his vegetable garden could qualify for a world record.
It started "exploding" with ears a few weeks ago, and has 28 at last count, said Matt Jacovelli.
"I started counting the cobs. It was more than I've ever seen in my lifetime," he said.
The current Guinness World Record for "the most corn cobs on a single plant" is 16, set by a farmer's grandson in Swedesburg, Iowa, in 2009.
Jacovelli admits he's no farmer. He doesn't even take credit for planting the corn.
"I feed the birds and rabbits and squirrels. The squirrels carried the seed all around my house and buried it," he said. "So the squirrels actually planted it. It's grown so fast, it's just gotten out of hand."
Rabbits and other critters have gnawed on the Jacovellis' tomato plants but they've left the cornstalk untouched. The corn plant was also immune to the bug spray Matt Jacovelli used around the tomatoes.
Jacovelli, who did maintenance for the Washington Township School District and floor-covering installation before retiring, does have one connection to agriculture: He grew up in rural Winslow.
"It was all farmland when I was a kid," he said. "When I was young, I used to work picking tomatoes and sweet potatoes."
Ears start to pop
Matt Jacovelli, along with his wife, Virginia, and daughter, Jean, who lives next door to her folks, have gotten a kick out of watching their cornstalk grow.
In July, Virginia posed playfully for a photo behind the cornstalk, which at that point only had three stalks.
"We were even joking, we were like, there's three of us in our family, we can all have an ear," said Jean, a nurse with Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
Little did they know the cornstalk would soon be able to supply enough cobs for the whole neighborhood.
"I said, 'Damn, we're going to have to hire somebody to come and harvest this,'" Matt joked.
But he was serious when he started thinking that his cornstalk could put New Jersey on the map.
"I was out here counting them one day and I said, 'I wonder what the record is.'" Matt said. "I got to thinking it might be something neat for New Jersey."
Jean contacted Guinness via email and asked how to begin the process to verify the number of cobs.
The first part is having an expert inspect the cornstalk: A specialist from Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station is coming by the house on Tuesday, Jean said.
In the meantime, Jean has had her own method for tracking the cobs. She pulls apart clumps on the stalk to find hidden cobs.
"If I could feel corn inside it, I counted it," she said, adding she also made small numbered signs to tag the cobs.
Even though they joked about having plenty of corn with dinner, the Jacovellis have no plans to eat their harvest.
"I don't think it's sweet corn. It's probably horse corn," Matt said. "I think it's very difficult to make it soft enough to eat."
Rachel Gluck, public relations manager for Guinness World Records North America in New York, said she couldn't share complete guidelines for the corn cob record, as that's part of the confidential application process, but she did detail a few of the main criteria:
The record is measured by the number of corn cobs.
A corn cob is defined as the central core of an ear of maize, where the kernels grow.
The cobs must be counted by a specialist independent witness with relevant expertise, such as a botanist or agricultural scientist.
The Iowa man who currently holds the corn cob record said he planted a few kernels of Pioneer brand seed, and used Miracle Gro fertilizer.
Matt Jacovelli proudly noted he hasn't used any chemicals on his cornstalk, which grew from Tractor Supply Producer's Pride seed.
"My wife usually waters it now and then," he said.
Virginia tends to the cornstalk when she waters her lilies and other flowers, and like Matt, laughs when asked if she considers herself a gardener. But she's enjoying the unusual crop.
"I think it's all very interesting," she said.
If he were to break the record, Matt said, "It would be nice for New Jersey ..."
"To beat Iowa!" Jean interjected.