Corn is grown as a staple food in most parts of the Americas and is used extensively in various recipes and food products.
However, things become a little complicated when it comes to harvesting corn. Mainly since it is harvested based on what you intend to do with it, whether boil, pop, roast, or dry.
Generally, it is recommended that corn is harvested about 20 to 25 days after the silk becomes visible, to ensure you get it at the peak of sweetness. But what if you want to roast your corn or dry it?
Since corn is enveloped in a tiny little parcel – with its kernels hidden from view – determining when the corn is ready to harvest and enjoy can be tricky.
However, do not worry, as we have created this detailed guide on everything you need to know about harvesting corn for the best results. Let’s get straight into it!
How To Tell When Corn Is Ready To Pick
Traditionally, corn planted around Whit Monday (late Spring) is expected to be ready for Carnival (late summer). While dried corn is prepared to be ground by All Saints Day (Early Fall).
Corn is ready to harvest when the silk becomes dark brown and the ear tilts to about a 45 degrees angle from the stalk. At his point, you should be able to feel the rows of developed seeds through the husk.
At this stage, the seeds are usually at their sweetest and perfect for boiling but not yet firm enough to roast. You will have to wait another week or two before harvesting for this purpose.
Corn is ready for roasting when the seeds become firm, and the outer husk starts to change color from green to yellow-brown. By now, some of the sugar would have converted to starch, but the heat takes care of that.
Finally, the corn you intend to dry is left on the stalk until both the husk and stalk become dry. Then harvested, peeled, and allowed to air-dry until seeds are ready to be milled or stored for replanting.
How To Harvest Corn?
Once you are ready to harvest your corn, all you have to do is grab your ear of corn, then bend it downwards, away from the stalk. In most cases, it should snap right off!
Nevertheless, ensure you don’t damage your stalk while doing so, since this could affect the cobs of corn that may need picking in a few weeks.
However, don’t worry too much. You will get the hang of it after pulling a few ears off the stalk.
If you are growing hard corn for popping, ensure you allow your ears to dry in the field for approximately 4-6 weeks. Once your corn has dried out completely, use your thumb to remove the dark husk and release all the kernels.
In short, for the best results, you must keep track of your corn’s growth and note essential stages in its development. Thankfully, this is surprisingly easy to do and somewhat exciting. See for yourself below.
How To Tell If Your Corn Is Developing Properly
Typically, corn can take between 70-100 days to grow, although this also depends on the variety of seeds. Therefore, it is best to get a head start if possible.
As soon as the daily temperature reaches approximately 65 degrees Fahrenheit and there is no chance of a frost, you can start planting your corn!
Then comes the tricky part, you have to monitor the corn over the next couple of weeks. Use the date on the package as a guide.
Within a couple weeks, you’ll notice the arrow, then the tiny ears of corn will appear. These are some exciting times!
Nevertheless, make a note of this date. Remember the 20 days estimate?
Once visible, the corn cobs will appear tiny, and as the weeks pass, they will begin to swell in size.
One corn plant can produce several ears of corn. The most mature ones will always be located on the stalk’s top.
Look out for long, semi-transparent white threads, also known as silks, that sway in the breeze and emerge from the top of the ear.
Corn that is sown close enough will be able to get its silks pollinated from the pollen on the tassel at the top of the stalks.
Each kernel of corn connected to the silk will begin to plump up and, before you know it, become the corn you know and love. One thing to remember is to be careful not to pick your corn too soon.
The general rule of thumb is that if the corns at the top of the stalk are not ready, the others won’t be either.
For the best flavors, ensure that your corn is fully developed. Just remember, once harvested, the sugars inside the kernels transform into starch, decreasing the corn’s sweetness.
Talking about flavors, let’s look at some ways to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
How Can You Eat Corn?
There are several types of corn intended for different purposes. For example, cornmeal, animal feed, tortillas, and even corn for popping.
Therefore, in the planning stage, you will have to determine what kind of corn you’re looking to produce.
Most gardeners and micro farmers choose a variety suited for direct human consumption, such as sweet corn or those intended for drying.
Sweet corn has a relatively short shelf life. Whereas varieties such as popcorn, flour corn, and flint can only be harvested when thoroughly dried – this ensures a longer shelf life.
In short, you do not have to be restricted to only enjoying your corn on the cob. There are several ways to enjoy these yellow nodes of goodness.
Harvesting corn could not be easier; however, determining when to harvest your corn can be slightly trickier.
Remember, In just under 100 days, the crop transforms from a seedling into an ear of corn.
While you do not have to follow this specific timeframe, you should consider the length of this period when planning your crop.
Hopefully, this guide has provided you with everything you need to know about when to harvest corn.
The University Of Georgia Extension. Growing Home Garden Sweet Corn. extension.uga.edu. Accessed October 2022
Mississippi State University Extension. When Should Sweet Corn Be Harvested? extension.msstate.edu. Accessed October 2022
Tikki O. How to Know When the Corn is Ready to Harvest: Tips on Picking Corn. [Video]. Youtube. Uploaded August 23, 2021