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How to Harvest and Store Sweet Corn

Corn ears
Corn harvest time

Corn is ready for harvest about 17 to 24 days after the first fine strands of silk appear at the top of the ears. Corn may ripen more quickly in hot weather and more slowly in cool weather.

When to Harvest Corn

  • Pick corn after silks have turned brown and become dry. Ears should be plump and full to the touch and green. Kernels visible at the tip of the ear should be full-sized and yellow or white.
  • The best time to harvest corn is in the morning when it is cool and before the ears are warmed by the sun. Picking corn during the heat of the day will result in the rapid conversion of natural sugars to starch. Pick early in the day when ears are sweetest
  • If you must pick corn during the heat of the day, immediately plunge the ears into cold water or put them on ice for about 30 minutes. This will slow the conversion of sugars to starch.
  • Most corn plants will yield two ears per stalk. A second ear will appear after the first and will be smaller than the first. Some hybrid varieties may yield more than two ears per stalk.
Corn harvest
To be sure an ear is ready for picking, peel back the top of the husk an inch or two and puncture a kernel with your fingernail. If the liquid is milky, it’s harvest time.

How to Test Corn for Ripeness

  • To be sure an ear is ready for picking, peel back the top of the husk an inch or two and puncture a kernel with your fingernail.
  • If the liquid is milky, it’s harvest time.
  • If the liquid is clear and watery, the corn is immature and not ripe; wait another day or two and test again (but place a paper bag over the ear to prevent insect or bird damage until harvest).
  • If the liquid is creamy or there is no sap, the ear is past ripe and the taste will be starchy, not sweet. Perfectly ripened corn will be sugary-sweet when tasted raw.

How to Harvest Corn

  • To pick an ear of corn, support the stalk with one hand and grip the ear firmly and twist downward and away from the stalk. The twist should remove the ear from the stalk.
corn on cob
For fresh eating, corn should be cooked as soon after harvest as possible. Don’t remove the husks until you are ready to cook.

How to Store Corn

  • Corn for fresh use: For fresh eating, corn should be cooked as soon after harvest as possible—within an hour or two for the best flavor. Don’t remove the husks until you are ready to cook. You can store unhusked corn in the refrigerator for up to a week.  Most varieties will keep in the refrigerator for up to one week.
  • Freezing corn: Corn freezes well after blanching. You can blanch and freeze corn either on or off the cob. For freezing or canning, place ears in 1 gallon of boiling water and blanch for 3 minutes after the water returns to a boil. Cool ears and cut kernels from cob at about three-fourths of the depth of kernel. Do not scrape the cob.
  • Canning corn: Can corn using a pressure cooker. Wash jars. Prepare lids according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Can whole-kernel corn in pints or quarts. Cream-style corn must be packed in half-pint or pint jars only.
  • Pickling corn: Immature ears can be pickled.

More tips: How to Grow Corn.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. Harvesttotable.com has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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  1. You can successfully freeze corn in its husk straight from the plant to the freezer. No blanching required.

    To cook, wrap in foil and bake on 350 for 20 minutes.
    Wait about 10 minutes after removing from oven to carefully open the husk. Spread butter all over the cob and sprinkle with salt (and pepper if you like) and enjoy.

    Tastes almost as good as cooking fresh.

  2. I always scrape the cob when putting up corn. That’s where all of the good flavor is and it always freezes well and when you cook it..it taste like you just shucked the corn that day.

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