Good timing helps ensure corn picking success

Last Updated: 
February 19, 2003

Getting your timing right will help ensure a successful home garden corn harvest.

"Home grown sweet corn passes through its prime fairly quickly," said Jan McNeilan, consumer horticulture agent with the Oregon State University Extension Service. "The harvest of a single planting may last just a few days."

Harvesting late may cause corn kernels to turn tough, starchy, and lose their sweet flavor.

Pick sweet corn as the kernels reach the milk stage when the silks are brown and dry at the end of the husks, and the ear fills the husks tightly to the tip.

Or, pick an ear and peel back the husk. The kernels should look well-filled, not shriveled. Slight fingernail pressure should break kernels open.

McNeilan recommends the following picking technique.

Break the ear shank close to the ear without breaking the main stalk or tearing the entire shank from the stalk. Grasp the ear with one hand near its base and bend it sharply downward or to one side with a rotating motion of the wrist.

Pick the corn early in the morning and refrigerate immediately.

Author: Bob Rost
Source: Jan McNeilan