Harvesting Sweet Corn

PHOTO: corn

Q. When is the best time to harvest sweet corn and how do I do it?

A. Sweet corn ears should be picked during the milk stage, which occurs when the kernels are fully formed but not fully mature. This stage typically occurs about 20 days after the first silk strands appear and lasts less than a week. Examine the ears closely. The kernels should be plump and smooth, and when they are punctured, the juice should appear milky. Some other signs that the corn is nearing maturity are browning and drying of the silks, firm unhusked ears, and corn kernels that are full at the tips. As harvest time nears, check the corn frequently to ensure you do not miss the milk stage. When the ears are ready, snap them off by hand with a quick and firm downward twist and pull. Store or eat the corn immediately after harvesting. One large ear develops per cornstalk, but some varieties may produce a second ear that is smaller and develops later than the first. After harvesting, cut the stalks down and compost them. They may be cut into 1-foot lengths to speed up decomposition.