QUESTION: How do you know when corn is ready to be picked? I’m growing some sweet corn in a small area of my gardening this season, but I haven’t ever harvested corn before. What do I look for? How do I know if corn on the cob is ready to pick? – Roanna P
GARDENING CHANNEL REPLIES: To figure out if your corn is ready to be picked, you can look for several signs that indicate its ripeness:
- Silk appearance: The silk on the corn cob will turn from a light, greenish-yellow color to a darker brown. When the silk becomes dry and dark brown, it’s a good sign that the corn is nearing maturity.
- Firmness: Gently squeeze the corn cob through the husk to feel the kernels. If they feel plump and firm, it’s likely that the corn is ready to be picked.
- Kernel development: To be more certain, you can carefully peel back a small section of the husk and observe the kernels. They should appear full, plump, and tightly packed. When the kernels at the top of the cob are also well-developed, it’s an indication that your corn is ready for harvest.
- Milky kernel test: Puncture one of the kernels with your fingernail. If a milky, white liquid (called corn “milk”) squirts out, the corn is at its peak ripeness. If the liquid is watery, the corn is not yet ready. If the kernel is firm and no liquid comes out, the corn may be overripe.
Remember that corn has a relatively short window for optimal harvest, so keep a close eye on it during the ripening process. Once you’ve noticed the signs of readiness, it’s best to go ahead and pick the corn and enjoy its sweet, delicious flavor.
When you’ve determined that some of the ears are ready to harvest, here’s how you pick them safely.
When picking your corn from the stalk, follow these simple steps:
- Try for morning: The best time to pick corn is in the early morning, when the temperature is cooler. This helps to preserve the sugar content and maintain the sweet flavor of the corn.
- Support the stalk: To avoid damaging the corn stalk, use one hand to support the stalk just below the ear you’re about to pick.
- Twist and pull: With your other hand, firmly grasp the ear of corn near its base, where it connects to the stalk. Twist the ear gently but firmly in a downward motion while simultaneously pulling it away from the stalk. The ear should come off the stalk easily if it’s ripe.
- Inspect the ear: Once you’ve picked the ear, check it for any signs of insect damage or disease. If the corn looks healthy, you can store it in a cool place until you’re ready to use it.
Remember, corn tends to lose its sweetness quickly after being harvested, so it’s best to consume or preserve it as soon as possible. Hope yours turn out great!