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How To Tell When Sweet Corn Is Ready: A Beginner’s Guide

Sweet corn is, without a doubt, one of the classic summer vegetables. Sure, it takes a considerable amount of patience to wait for the corn’s ears to reach their perfectly ripe level, but we can all also agree that there is nothing like freshly cooked corn eaten straight off its corb.

Another issue most new plant parents tend to meet is that they do not know how to tell when sweet corn is ready for harvest. That is understandable, considering you cannot actually see the fruits’ ripening process taking place as you would usually do for peppers or tomatoes.

That said, with practice, you will soon get a feel for the exact times your corn harvests will be ready. To help you get there, I’ve created this guide on knowing when sweet corn is ready, plus how to store and harvest it.

How To Tell When Sweet Corn Is Ready 2
How do I know when my corn is ready to pick – via Reddit

Growing Your Sweet Corn at Home

Though corn products and corn syrup have been getting lots of negative press over the last couple of years, eating sweet corn as a whole food is excellent for you. For starters, sweet corn is a whole grain filled with healthy nutrients, including but not limited to copper, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, potassium, folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin c.

What’s more? When you’re growing your sweet corn at home, you ought to note that your cobs probably will not resemble those you’d usually find at a supermarket. Yours will likely come in distinct sizes, and some of them might even end up looking as if bites have been taken out.

All that is okay, though, because at the end of the day, you can rest assured your sweet corn will taste way better than anything available at the store.

With that in mind, as you prepare to start picking your sweet corn from the field, ensure you do not simply rely on the size of the corn’s ear to determine when it is ready. Corns with small ears will usually stop growing after a certain point, but that never really affects their chances of still ripening like corn with larger ears

With that in mind, let’s skip to the most exciting section of the guide and look at what you’re here for.

How To Tell When Sweet Corn Is Ready 1
Are my sweetcorn ready to harvest? – via Reddit

How to Tell When Sweet Corn Is Ready?

You’re not advised to go by the corns’ ears sizes to determine when your sweet corn is ready to be picked, but there are lots of signs you can watch out for.

As a general rule of thumb, most sweet corn varieties will usually be ready for harvest approximately 70 to 80 days after planting. Note, though, that this time will significantly vary depending on weather conditions during the period. Also, note that sweet corn is very different from most other kinds of corn, like flint corn and dent corn, which usually tend to take longer to ripen.

Early hybrids of corn also exist. A great example is the Early Sunglow, which can at times be ready for harvest in less than 70 days.

With that in mind, the first sign to watch out for to tell when sweet corn is ready is the appearance of silk at the end of the corn’s ears. Once the silks start to appear, expect your sweet corn to be ready for harvest in approx three weeks.

Again, note that the period after silks appear will depend on the weather where you’ve planted your sweet corn. Cool-weather will usually slow down the ripening process a little bit, whereas warm weather will usually speed it up.

After getting into these approximate harvest ranges, here are additional signs you can use to tell for sure if your sweet corn is ready to be harvested.

1.      The Milk Stage

Most experts recommend picking your sweet corn after what is called a “milk stage.” This is usually when the kernels are the juiciest, sweet, and milky. So, to test your sweet corn for the milk stage, you’ll need to start by gently pulling back the corn’s husk or making a small slit in the husk such that the corn inside is exposed.

Next, find a kernel located several steps down from the top and puncture it using a needle or fingernails. If the kernel is plump and squirts a milky sap after puncturing it, it’s ready for harvest.

If the juice that pops up is clear, your sweet corn isn’t ripe yet, and you’ll need to cover it back up and give it a little bit more time.

2.      Simply Feel The Sweet corn Using Your Hand

Another easy way to confirm whether or not your sweet corn is ready for harvest is to feel the cob using your hand. If it feels like the corn has filled out the husk or feels plump and firm when you press, it implies the corn is ready. While pressing, you should also be able to feel the individual kernels inside through the husk.

3.      Brown and Crispy Silks

As the ears of corn grow, the ends of the silks will usually look silky and yellow-white. As the sweet corn gets ready for harvest, however, the silks’ shade starts turning brown and looking sort of crispy. So, if you notice that your sweet corn’s silks are brown and dry, it’s a great indicator that your corn is ready to pick.

If you have no faith in your ability to pick or spot perfectly ripe sweet corn even after using all three tips I’ve shared above, start by picking and preparing just two or three cobs from your farm and seeing how they taste. This should help you further learn how to recognize ripe corn.

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Final Thoughts

I spent weeks putting this guide on how to tell when sweet corn is ready, so I really how you’ve found it helpful and are ready to become a better sweet corn plant parent. If you have additional tips on hwo to tell when sweet corn is ready that you’d love to share with others, feel free to leave them in the comment section below.