How Do You Know When To Pick Corn?

Last Updated on August 14, 2023 By Emma W. Thomas

Harvest corn when the kernels are plump, fully developed, and milky in appearance. Check for brown, dry silk and husks that have darkened. Optimal harvest time is typically 18-24 days after silk emergence, with corn reaching moisture levels of around 25-30%.

How Can I Tell That My Corn Is Ripe?

Looking at your corn’s appearance and texture may not be enough to tell that it is ripe. A small ear could be ready for harvest, and so the size cannot be a relevant factor to consider. Follow the steps below;

1. Know The Number Of Days Until Harvest

Ensure you know the number of days until harvesting for your specific corn. You can consult your seed supplier or check the package to find out. A simple guideline is 20 days from the appearance of the first tassels at the end of the ear. 

2. Look At The Cornsilk

If you look at the corn, you will see tassels at the end of each ear. These tassels include cornsilk and are part of the crop that bears and receives pollen. Cornsilk changes color from light blond to dark brown when corn is ready for harvesting. If the cornsilk is dark brown up to the husk, it can be assumed that your corn is ready to eat. 

3. Double-Check The Ripeness

To be sure that your corn is ripe, pull back the husk and pick a kernel. Ensure that the grains are filled from the base of the ear to the tip of the plant. Rub your thumbnail against the seeds, and if they squirt some milk or feel tender, they are ready.

4. Feel The Husks

Mature corn will have dark green, firm husks, and the silk will be dark but tightly held against the ear. You will feel each kernel through the husk. 

Tips For Harvesting Corn

Corn may ripen faster in hot and slower in cold weather. It may be ready for picking between 17 and 24 days after the appearance of the first fine strands of silk at the top of the ears. The following tips help us know when to harvest corn;

1. Pick your corn after the silks turn brown and are dry. Ensure that the ears are plump and full when you touch them but are still green. Ensure also that the kernels are full-sized, white, or yellow when you observe them at the ear’s tip.

2. Pick your corn in the morning when it is cold and before the sun warms up the ears. If you pick your corn during the day’s heat, it will lead to the speedy conversion of natural sugars to starch. Picking early in the day gives you the sweetest ears.  

3. Suppose you must harvest corn at the heart of the day, plunge the ears immediately into cold water or place them on ice for around 30 minutes. Doing this slows the conversion of sugars to starch.

4. The majority of corn plants produce two ears per stalk, and the second one comes after the first and usually is smaller. Some hybrids can yield more than two years. 

How To Store Your Corn

Storing your corn after harvesting is very crucial to prevent them from getting damaged. Here’s what to know;

1. Using Freshly Harvested Corn

Cook your corn immediately after harvesting it for fresh eating. If you want to get an excellent flavor, use your corn within an hour or two and only remove the husks when ready to cook. If you are not prepared to cook immediately, you can store your corn in the refrigerator with the husks on as most varieties can stand refrigeration for up to one week.

2. Canning  

You can, can your corn using a pressure cooker. Wash your cans and prepare the lids as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Place whole-kernel corn in the jars in quarts or pints and cream-style corn, and pack them in pint or half-pint jars only.

3. Freezing 

Freeze your corn after blanching either off or on the cob. For better canning or freezing, put the ears in a gallon of boiling water and let it blanch for 3 minutes after the water goes back to a boil. Allow the ears to cool and cut the kernels from the cob about 3/4 of the kernels’ depth. Avoid scraping the cob.

4. Pickling

You can extend the shelf life of your corn by either immersing it in vinegar or by anaerobic fermentation. However, it is good to remember that this process will affect your corn’s flavor, texture, and taste.

What Month Is Corn Harvested?

Corn harvesting dates vary based on several factors. The Corn Belt, however, prepares to start the fall harvest in September. The fall corn harvests typically last two months, but this may vary, for example, in Texas, where it lasts 3 ½ months.

How should you harvest corn?

Corn is a staple food source for many people around the world. As one of the most versatile crops, it forms the backbone of many dishes and a significant part of animal feed. Harvesting corn is an important operation that, when performed correctly, ensures you maximize your yield and maintain crop quality. Here is a detailed guide on how to harvest corn:

1. Determine the Right Time for Harvesting
Corn’s harvest-ready signs depend largely on its intended use. Sweet corn is typically ready for picking when the silk at the top of each ear turns brown, but the husks are still green and tightly wrapped around the cob. Conversely, field corn used for animal feed or cornmeal should be harvested when kernels appear fully mature, generally hard and dry.

2. Conduct a Moisture Content Test
A moisture content test is critical in determining whether corn is ready for harvesting. Ideally, the moisture content should be approximately 15-20% for sweet corn and about 15% for field corn. You could use a commercial moisture meter to measure this or perform a hand-squeeze test. In the latter case, if little or no liquid is squeezed out of the kernels when pressed, that indicates a good moisture level.

3. Harvest by Hand or Use Machinery
Hand-picking is recommended for small-scale farming or home gardens. Use your hand to grasp an ear firmly at the base and twist it down and away from the stalk until it breaks off. For large-scale farming, using a combined harvester proves efficient in harvesting corn over large areas.

4. Handle With Care
Whether harvested by hand or machinery, handle your corn with care to minimize damage to the husk or kernels, thus preserving quality and preventing spoilage.

5. Store Appropriately
Proper storage extends the shelf-life of your harvested corn. Store sweet corn in a refrigerator at temperatures not exceeding 35°F (1°C). For field corn, ensure your kernels are appropriately dried before storing them in a clean and well-ventilated space.

6. Periodic Checking
To prevent losses from rot or pests during storage, perform a periodic check on your stored harvest.

7. Process and Utilize
Harvested corn has numerous uses besides immediate consumption including canning, milling into flour, animal feeding, or fermenting into bioethanol among others.

Harvesting corn requires careful attention to timing, handling, and storage to ensure maximum quality and yield retention. The above steps provide a roadmap to the successful harvesting of this highly beneficial crop.

How Long Does Corn Last After Harvesting?

Fresh eating corn should be cooked within an hour or two after harvesting to give the best flavor.  Avoid removing the husks if you are not ready to cook the corn. You can, however, refrigerate the corn with husks on for up to one week.

Final Ward

Knowing when to pick your corn could be tricky since even a small ear may be ready for harvest. It is essential to be aware of the number of days your variety of corn takes till harvest. Check also for the silk as it will change its light blond color to dark brown, which indicates that you can pick it.

References:

https://www.finegardening.com/project-guides/fruits-and-vegetables/how-do-you-know-when-to-harvest-sweet-corn
https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/vegetables/corn/tips-for-harvesting-corn.htm