Freshly harvested sweet corn.
image by Benimoto/Flickr.com
Nothing says summer to a gardener quite like sweet corn. When a gardener has a large enough growing area that allows the inclusion of sweet corn in a summer garden, the anticipation of the sweet corn harvest is often a highlight of the growing season. Watch the cornstalks for the first appearance of corn silk and mark this on the calendar. Approximately three weeks later, it will be time to harvest the sweet corn.
Tend the corn carefully during the growing season. Control weeds around the cornstalks and make sure the growing corn receives adequate water during the time that the ears are forming and maturing.
Add a side dressing of nitrogen fertilizer when the cornstalks are between 12 and 18 inches tall. Follow guidelines on the fertilizer package for the proper amount to add to the soil around the cornstalks and work the fertilizer into the soil well with a small garden fork.
Watch the corn to determine when the milking stage begins. The milking stage is the time to harvest the sweet corn. Look at the outside of the largest ear of corn on a cornstalk. The silk protruding from the top of the ear should be brown. The ear of corn should feel firm under the husks. Peel back the husks at the top of the ear and puncture a kernel with your fingernail. The juice should be milky.
Wear gloves and long sleeves to harvest the corn because the foliage of the cornstalks is irritating to the skin. Grasp an ear of corn that is mature and snap it from the cornstalk by pushing it down and twisting it quickly at the same time. Continue until you have harvested all of the mature ears.
Continue to monitor the cornstalks after the first milking stage because there will usually be at least one more ear growing on each cornstalk. These subsequent ears are smaller and will be mature several weeks after the first ears. Harvest in the same fashion following the same guidelines.
Eat the harvested sweet corn as quickly as possible. Store the unshucked sweet corn uncovered in the refrigerator for up to two days. Freeze sweet corn by blanching it and then freezing it either on or off the cob in plastic bags. Frozen corn will keep in the freezer for about 10 months.