Corn Harvesting and Storage: Best Practices

As a farmer, one of the most exciting times of the year is when it’s time to harvest our crops. This can be a particularly rewarding experience for those who grow corn. But when and how do you know it’s time to harvest your corn? In this article, I’ll share some tips and tricks for harvesting corn at just the right time to ensure a delicious and bountiful crop.

Varieties of Corn

Corn in a Field

Corn comes in various varieties, including flour, flint, sweet, pop, and dent. Corn colors, forms, and sizes vary widely, and even variants with blue, red, and multicolored kernels are available. Not all varieties of maize, though; some are only produced for aesthetics. For instance, Native Americans previously grew flint corn for food, but it is now mainly solely used for ornamental purposes.

Sweet corn is perhaps the simplest and most gratifying corn to cultivate in your food garden. Growing your popcorn can be enjoyable as well. Although it takes a while for the crop to develop and dry, the quality will be similar to those from the shop. There are five main types of maize that gardeners grow:

1. Field corn, also known as dent (Zea mays var. indentata), is frequently used as a grain or to feed livestock.

2. In addition to being sold and consumed fresh as a vegetable, sweet (Z. mays var. saccharata or Z. mays var. rugosa), sometimes known as the best sort ever, can also be canned or frozen.

3. Flint, also known as Indian corn or Z. mays var. indurata, is used to manufacture cornmeal and comes in various hues.

4. As the name implies, flour (Z. mays var. amylacea) is commonly used to make maize flour.

5. A unique kind of flint corn called popcorn (Zea mays var. everta) was bred to pop instead of crack when the kernels were roasted and dried.

The good news is that there are only two main methods for harvesting maize, even though five different varieties are available. The distinction is also temporal; it all depends on when you harvest.

When to Harvest Corn

Lady Harvesting Corn

The yield or maturity date may vary slightly depending on the sort of corn you are planting. For instance, some types grow 72 days after the seeds are planted, while others take 110 days. To get an idea of when your corn should be ready for harvest, check the seed packet for the days to maturity.

Watch the silks and the days before maturity (the fine, threadlike strands on the ear of corn). The corn matures sufficiently around 20 days after the silks first appear on the ear. When the silks become brown, but the husk is still green, the ears are ready to be picked.

Before harvesting, stalks should have at least one ear towards the top. Although the ears may be smaller and not ready for harvest, they may be found lower on the stem. Watch for when the silks on these lower ears turn brown before harvesting them because they will eventually develop.

Check if an ear’s kernels are in the “milk stage” before harvest. This implies that the liquid inside a kernel appears milky when you pierce it with your fingernail. After the silks have gone brown, the milk stage lasts for roughly 18 to 20 days. The time for harvesting has not yet come if the juice in the kernel is still clear. After a day or two, inspect the kernels once more. You’ve waited too long to harvest the grain if there is no liquid in the kernels.

Pick the ears of corn early in the morning before the sun warms them up if you are certain your corn is ready to be harvested. The natural sugars in the corn kernels start to turn into starch as soon as the ears are picked, which reduces the corn’s sweetness. This process proceeds more quickly when the environment is warmer. The sweetest sweet corn is best picked early in the morning.

How to Harvest Corn

Holding the ear firmly, pulling it down, and twisting it away from the stalk with the husk on is the ideal method for harvesting corn. It should be simple to remove the ear. Unless you intend to grill the cobs with the husks on, you can now remove the husk and silk from the corn.

Harvested sweet corn should be refrigerated as soon as possible to prevent the conversion of sugar to starch and preserve the highest quality. If you don’t have any plans to can or store your crop, only harvest as much corn as you can consume. But be sure to select all of the sweet corn while it is still in the “milk stage.”

Sweetcorn cobs should only be plucked when you are prepared to cook them since, once harvested, and they quickly lose their freshness. When the cobs are ready to be harvested, try to do so just as the water on the cooker is about to boil. This will ensure that they are as fresh as possible.

If you have a patch of sweet corn plants serving as a windbreak and not already, leave the plant alone after harvesting. If not, pull the plants up, use some garden loppers to cut them up into little pieces, and then put the entire plant matter into the compost pile.

How to Save Corn Seeds

Corn Seeds

This year’s harvest of sweet corn can be matured and dried on the stalk until the husk and stalks are paper-like and brown if you want to save the seeds. The kernels should feel tough to the touch, be dry, and appear wrinkled. To keep the same plant characteristics, save at least 500 seeds. A seed might have undergone genetic modification if cross-pollinated with another corn variety.

After removing the cobs from the stalk, you must further dry them to prevent mold growth. There are a few drying techniques to employ. One method is to suspend the corn from the husks by pulling them back but leaving them in place. Another approach is to remove the husk and spread the corn out on a rack or screen. Place them away from the sun’s direct rays.

Twist the cob with your hands to loosen the seeds, then cut the kernels from the cob. If you have a lot of corn ears to shell, there are instruments like a corn sheller available for this process. The seeds should be kept in mason jars in a cold, dry, and dark location once the kernels have been removed and fully dried out in preparation for sowing in the garden the following year.

Storing Fresh Corn

Fresh White Corn

Some say that since corn loses its freshly harvested flavor so rapidly, you should start the water to boil before heading to the garden to gather it. Although the timing is not particularly important, it tastes best after harvest. When the corn is picked, the sugars start to turn into starches, and after about a week, it will taste more like corn you buy at the grocery store than corn straight from the garden.

Freshly picked corn stays best in the refrigerator, where it can be kept for up to a week. It is preferable to freeze it if you need to keep it longer. To save space, you can either clip it off the cob or freeze it on the cob.

To conclude, the optimal time to harvest corn is when the ears mature, and the kernels are plump and milky. This can usually be determined by gently squeezing the kernels with your thumb and index finger. If the kernels are soft and give easily, then the corn is ready to be harvested.

Harvesting corn at the right time is important to ensure the highest quality and taste. Additionally, it is important to pay attention to the weather and try to harvest on a dry day to prevent the corn from getting damaged or moldy. Overall, proper timing and careful handling are key to a successful corn harvest.

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