In case you don’t know yet, freshly picked homegrown corn tastes heaps better than store-bought ones.
The reason? Many believe that right after picking, corn loses up to 90 percent of its flavor.
If you want to experience just how delicious this crop is, you will want to grow them in your own garden.
The key is not only learning how to grow them; you should also know when is the best time to harvest them.
How to know when to harvest corn? It’s quite easy to determine if corn is ready for picking. You will just need to take note of when the silk first appears and then wait about 20 days before harvesting. Around this time, you will notice the silk has turned brown while the husks remain green.
What Month Do You Harvest Corn?
The harvesting timeframes of corn crops vary depending on when you planted them and the conditions they were exposed to.
Generally speaking, you plant corn in the United States from early March all the way through June.
Then, given the right conditions, you will be able to harvest them anytime from early July to early December.
As a warm-season crop, corn will grow and thrive in areas that get full sun and where the growing season stays within 60- and 95-degrees Fahrenheit.
They are particularly sensitive to frost and wet conditions, so timing is very important.
Depending on the variety you choose to plant, you will have to wait for 60 to 100 days before they are ripe and ready for picking.
How Do You Know When Your Corn Is Ready to Harvest?
About an hour after picking, corn will have lost a big percentage of its natural flavor and sweetness.
As such, it is very important that you get the timing right.
Like any other crop, you will have to take note of when exactly did you plant them.
Then, check the seed package to know how many days it will take the corn to grow and mature.
As mentioned, they will most likely be ready 20 days after the first tassels or silks appear.
Here are signs that your corn is ready to be harvested:
1. Shriveled, Dry, and Brown Silk
If you still see shiny and pale-yellow silks on your corn, you can rest assured that they are not ripe yet.
These silks store and receive pollen.
What you want is silk that is dry, shriveled, and brown in color.
Again, this will occur in around three weeks after the silks first form.
2. Milky Kernel Juice
Instead of relying on just the cornsilk, you can check the corn kernels themselves so that you’re sure they are ripe for picking.
To do this, select one ear and make a small vertical cut into its husk to gain access to its kernels.
Then, gently pull back the husk to reveal the kernels.
With your fingernail, puncture a plump kernel a couple of rows from the ear’s top.
The juice that comes out must be milky yet still see-through.
If it is clear, wait a few more days before picking.
If the juice is thick and opaque, your corn has already gone way overripe.
What Happens If You Don’t Harvest Corn?
So, you are sure they are ready for picking. What if, for some reason, you decide not to harvest them yet?
What will happen if you leave the corn out for a longer period?
It is not uncommon for corn growers to delay harvesting corn and let Mother Nature help with the drying process.
The problem is, doing this increases the very serious risks of ear rot, ear drop, and stalk lodging.
And, yes, these will all lead to significant yield loss.
It will not affect the crop’s quality, but there is a great chance that it will result in moldy corn.
Not harvesting corn when they are ready for picking exposes them to wildlife damage as well as unpleasant weather conditions.
The longer they sit outside, the greater these risks become.
Experts suggest picking corn no later than early November.
You will get drying benefits from delaying harvest—we all know that to be true.
Still, once you expose them to very cool temperatures, your corn can weather almost instantaneously.
How to Harvest Corn
Once you are sure that they are ready to harvest, you can go ahead and pick each ear out.
It isn’t too difficult to do, but you will want to make sure that you do this quickly and with a sure hand.
Follow these simple steps to harvesting corn:
Step 1: Hold the stalk you wish to pick.
With your non-dominant hand, secure the corn stalk you want to harvest in your hand.
The goal is to keep it steady so that the corn ear will be easy to pick.
Step 2: Twist the corn ear.
Next, you will want to grab a corn ear with your other hand (your dominant hand).
Your thumb should grab onto the top of the ear as your middle finger rests firmly at the base.
With a steady hand, twist the corn ear to its side.
Remember that not twisting the corn before yanking it will most likely kill the plant.
Step 3: Yank!
After twisting the corn ear to its side, pull it down and then yank it as hard as you can.
Doing this should do the trick.
Then, just repeat everything with the rest of your corn.
When given the right growing conditions, you can expect to find one to two ears of corn in every stalk.
Step 4: Store
Of course, after harvesting comes storage.
You can preserve its sweetness and flavor if you eat or store them within six hours after picking.
Every day they go uneaten means their sugar content will turn to starch, resulting in tough and less sweet corn.
Got no idea how to store corn? Here are a few things to keep in mind.
Though they are best consumed fresh, you can keep corn in the fridge for up to four days.
Just make sure you wrap the unopened husk with damp paper towels.
If you’d like to store them for longer, freeze them up but blanch them beforehand.
Corn stored this way can last from three to six months.
If this is the route you wish to take, begin by removing the silk and corn husk from each ear.
Then, blanch them in boiling water before putting them inside an air-sealed container.
You can do this by boiling the ears for around seven to 11 minutes, depending on the size.
After that, cool them down immediately by tossing them in an ice bath.
If you have limited freezer space, you can store just the corn kernels themselves by cutting them off of the cob.
You can also store creamed corn if you prefer that over whole kernels.
Should You Wash Corn After Harvesting?
Corn is a highly perishable crop.
Right after harvesting, it will begin to lose its tenderness and sweetness.
Obviously, we don’t want that to happen.
To prolong this process, you will want to cool them down immediately to around 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
You can also opt to harvest early in the morning or at night so that you can avoid exposing them to hot temperatures.
If you store them immediately after, there’s no need to wash them beforehand, especially if still in the husk.
However, if you decide to do so, make sure the water you use for cooling them down is treated with chlorine or another sanitizing solution.
If you will be blanching and freezing them after harvesting, it would be best to wash them thoroughly beforehand.
Can You Eat Corn Immediately After Harvesting?
If growing at home, we recommend picking only enough corn you and your family can eat that day.
The few hours after picking are when corn is the sweetest and the most delicious.
Then, harvest more in the following days.
One trick that many home gardeners do is to plant different batches in succession.
This way, you will have fresh corn to harvest every week.
Again, the key is to make sure you pick them when they are still in their milky stage.
Also, after harvesting all the corn, you will want to pull the corn stalks up and out of the ground.
This way, you can get rid of pest breeding sites and lower the risks of pest overwintering.
Despite the fact that they take up a large chunk of garden space, growing corn is worth it because of how yummy and nutritious they are.
Give corn crops a frost-free and long-enough growing season, and you will have sweet corns ready in about two to three months.
To know if they are ready to harvest, check if the kernels are plump, the ears are dark green, and the silks have browned.
Another trick is to squeeze a kernel. As you do, the juice that comes out should not be clear but milky.
You will know you waited too long when the juice has turned opaque.