Food Gardening Network

Growing Good Food at Home

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When and How to Harvest Your Corn

Corn, ready for harvest

Corn, ready for harvest

You’ve planted, weeded, watered, and made sure your corn plants have had plenty of sunshine—now it’s time to reap your reward!

When to pick corn

Knowing when to pick your corn is key to enjoying your crop. Corn is ready to pick about 20 days after the silk first appears. The silk will start to turn brown, but the husks are still green. The larger, more mature ears will be at the top of the stalk. Leave any lower, smaller ears to keep growing.

Before picking, check to see if the kernels are at the “milk stage.” Puncture a kernel and examine the liquid that comes out. If it’s milky, it’s ready! If the liquid is clear, the corn is still ripening. If no liquid emerges, you’ve waited too long. Go ahead and pick and eat, but know that the corn is not at its prime—and check sooner next time!

How to Pick Sweet Corn

Early morning is the best time to pick corn. However, if you’re going to enjoy it for dinner, you might want to wait until just before cooking. Grasp the ear firmly, pull down, twist, and pull it off the stalk. It should come off easily.

Ideally, you should only pick the ears you’re going to eat that day or the next, but be sure to pick all the corn when it’s in the milk stage.

Storing Fresh-Picked Corn

Once the ear leaves the stalk, the corn starts converting its sugar to starch. The longer you wait to cook and eat it, the more it will taste like grocery store corn rather than fresh-picked. If you store it in the refrigerator, you have about a week.

Should you have a bumper crop or just can’t eat all the corn you’ve grown, keep harvesting it in the milk stage. Then shuck it, clean it, put it in an airtight freezer bag (on the cob or after cutting off the kernels), and freeze it for a later date. Corn is a tasty addition to soups, salads, and many other dishes.

When do you harvest your corn? Do you get a good crop every year? Please tell us your experiences with harvesting your corn.


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