How to know when to pick corn?

Discussion in 'Gardening & Plant Propagation' started by karsan, Aug 7, 2006.

  1. karsan

    karsan Well-Known Member

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    My corn seem to be doing great this year, the third year I grow corn. We have had unusually hot weather. Here in the Stockholm, Sweden, area it is usually on the cool side for corn (maize). But I never know when to pick them. My gardening book says that when you squeeze the kernels and it comes out like cream they are ready. But in order to do that I have to peel off the husks and destroy them! With only 15 plants I do not want to waste any.
    They varieties I grow are called Fleet, Quickie, Sugar Buns. All are hybrids, meant for our short Nordic growing season.
    So what readiness signs can I look for? And how long is the window of opportunity before they get overripe?

    karsan
     
  2. Rita

    Rita Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I always look for the dried, brown silk, then notice if the ear is bending away from the stalk and finally I grasp the ear of corn and feel if has any "give" to it. If it doesn't feel hard to the touch it probably has not filled out yet. I still make mistakes. The new sweetcorn varieties are very forgiving of letting them mature too long and still stay very sweet and edible. I like my corn "mature" as I think it has more flavor. Hope this helps. Love that corn! Rita
     

  3. karsan

    karsan Well-Known Member

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    Thank you Rita!

    I suppose there are many corn growers on this board - any more tips?
    karsan
     
  4. CatsPaw

    CatsPaw Who...me?

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    If I'm not mistaken, you can peel back the very end (gently) and expose enough kernals to test. Then, pull the end back around the kernals if they aren't ready. They should still be fine. Mainly I go by the brown silk. I watch for the silk to turn nice and dry and brown but still have some fresh silk going into the husk.
     
  5. rufus

    rufus Well-Known Member

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    The racoons usually point it out to me when my corn's ready. :flame:
     
  6. suburbanite

    suburbanite Well-Known Member

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    lol! like the birds point out my sunflower seeds!
     
  7. Paquebot

    Paquebot Well-Known Member

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    Go by both looks and feel. Dry silk is an indication that the ear is formed and kernels are filling out but may be a week to 10 days away from perfection. Look then to see if the ear is about 2 inches thick. Feel it and if there is some give and you can actually feel ridges on the ear, it's not quite ready yet. When it is ready, it will be solid and you won't feel the individual rows of kernels.

    As one said, you can easily pull back some of the husk to see what the end inch of kernels look like. That will tell you what the rest of the ear looks like. If not ready, you can squeeze the husks back in place or even use a rubber band to close them tight.

    Martin
     
  8. karsan

    karsan Well-Known Member

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    Ok thanks for all the advice. I will go out and feel my corn. Last year I tried moving back some husk, and the kernels underneath never developed. But I did not use the rubber band method.

    Silk changing: It seems to change color very soon, yellowish white for only a few days, then turning purple, but not dry. Often slugs find the silk and eat it before it gets dry. Usually, how long does it take from the silk to appear on the ear until the corn is ready?

    After getting ready, for how long does the corn stay crunchy and sweet before it turns tough? Like a few days, a week, two weeks, a month? We got some wonderful and some terrible corn last year. I know the cobs should go straight to the pot after being harvested.

    karsan
     
  9. Paquebot

    Paquebot Well-Known Member

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    Karsan, your problem last year may have been that the ears didn't get pollinated. If you peeled some husk back to check, that wouldn't stop the kernels from forming if they had been pollinated. But that's not your latest question.

    Once an ear is at the peak for eating, it doesn't last long. Sugar quickly begins to convert to starch. It is said that the sugar:starch ratio may go from 4:1 to 1:4 in 3 days time after picking. The change while still on the stalk isn't much slower. If you allow an ear to go a full week past the peak of ripeness, I guarantee that it is going to be very chewy! Then it's best used for corn relish or something other than trying to eat it off the cob.

    At the very last minute, the first day of summer, two extra community garden plots were handed over to me to do something with. With exactly 90 days of summer remaining, I opted for corn in one of them. Divided evenly between 70-day and 73-day, about 150 of each. 7 weeks later, ears are beginning to form with just a little silk showing. Tassels have been dropping pollen for several days. With it being one solid 18x25 block, there should be no problem with pollination.

    Martin
     
  10. VALENT

    VALENT Well-Known Member

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    With sweet corn, there are three different categories based on how long the corn stays good. I do not remember the specifics but the seed packet will give some info. Some varieties are selected to stay "tasty" for weeks while others lose taste in a matter of hours. I wish I could be more complete in my answer but there is quite a difference in the varieties.
     
  11. karsan

    karsan Well-Known Member

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    Well thank you Valent, but my seed packages say nothing about that.
    Anyway, I picked 2 cobs on saturday and 2 on sunday, those that looked having most dried out silk and pointing out from the big stem. The feeling method on the kernel rows I could not make to work

    Outcome:All the cobs were delicious. One seemed to have started the starching process, 1 was perfect, 2 seemed like they could have stayed on a few days more. But again, all were delicious, and much better than anything we have gotten from the store, fresh or frozen. Here in norhtern Europe, people do not really know what fresh corn on the cob is like. Anyway, Canadian-raised Hubby was very happy.

    Now the weather has turned cool, cloudy and wet. How will that affect the ripening process? The sun of course is lower now in middle august, and the days are rapidly getting shorter. We lose 4 min of daylight every day.

    karsan
     
  12. VALENT

    VALENT Well-Known Member

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  13. karsan

    karsan Well-Known Member

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    OK, thank you again, Valent, for the link. Now I know that my Quickie is an SU and Sugar Buns an SE. I have another too, Fleet, very similar to Quickie but not in the list. So far I have tried Fleet and Quickie, delicious. Sugar Buns is a bit later, as it should, according to link.

    I do the planting differently from the link, I start indoors, as my Swedish gardening books says. This my third year, and corn seems really easily (although chancy with the pollination and harvest). No pests, (excepts slugs in the early stages), and the deer leaves it alone, no need for supports. I have watered this summer.

    The only thing the link does not say is what happens to the corn development when the weather turns cool, cloudy and wet for weeks (a type of weather I never saw in the approx 6 North American summers I have experienced), but is standard here!

    karsan
     
  14. VALENT

    VALENT Well-Known Member

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    karsan, can you tell any difference after a few days like that link suggests? My sweet corn did not make it past the racoons this year so I never had a chance to really tell. Supposedly, the SU (Quickie, in your case) would start losing its sweetness within days, if not hours. Can you tell? I planted SU this year(from Burpee but cant recall the variety) but didnt have a chance to test.(We did eat two ears)
     
  15. Pony

    Pony STILL not Alice Supporter

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    I went out to the garden today and started sneezing my head off. (Had to pick it up 2 or 3 times...;) )

    Seems that the corn is certainly In Pollen right now -- there's a cloud of it over the corn patch!! How cool is that? :D

    I don't mind sneezing if it means I'm going to be eating some good corn!

    Pony!
     
  16. karsan

    karsan Well-Known Member

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    Valent, no, I can not tell how fast they are losing sweetness. I have very few of each kind, just 15 plants althogether, and they were started at different times. I pick them just before the meal, but it has to be a weekend treat! Seems like a lottery - so far we have had winners!

    karsasn
     
  17. VALENT

    VALENT Well-Known Member

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    Well, hey, at least thats good. And Pony, good luck with keeping that head on. Maybe when you sneeze you should grab both ears and hold down.LOL
     
  18. Paquebot

    Paquebot Well-Known Member

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  19. Sammy

    Sammy Well-Known Member

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    I read somewhere that said it was about 21 days.
     
  20. VALENT

    VALENT Well-Known Member

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    Wow Martin, thats a lot of sweet corn. Must be a pretty big festival.