Harvest Time!

Young woman peeling back husks from harvested Sweetcorn - © GAP Photos

Young woman peeling back husks from harvested Sweetcorn – © GAP Photos

Sweetcorn is delicious eaten straight from the cob, and the fresher the cob, the sweeter the taste. So, if you have the room, it is a worthwhile candidate in a vegetable garden. Late summer to early autumn is prime harvest time for sweetcorn.

If you have not harvested fresh sweetcorn before, it may be a little confusing at first. With the cobs wrapped up and hidden from view in their papery husks, the tall statuesque plants, with their arching leaves and upright tassels can look a bit spindly and alien. Here are a few tips for harvesting sweetcorn.

1. Know when to harvest

Woman harvesting Sweetcorn 'Minipop' F1 Hybrid - Zea mays var. rugosa - © GAP Photos

Woman harvesting Sweetcorn ‘Minipop’ F1 Hybrid – Zea mays var. rugosa – © GAP Photos

When a cob is ready to be harvested, the silk at the top of the husks will have dried and turned brown. You should also be able to feel the full bulk of the cob inside the husk.
2. To be extra sure the cob is ripe, pull back the leaves a little way to expose the kernels below.

Testing sweetcorn for ripeness by piercing kernel with fingernail - © GAP Photos/Sarah Cuttle

Testing sweetcorn for ripeness by piercing kernel with fingernail – © GAP Photos/Sarah Cuttle

If you pierce the kernels with a fingernail, is the sap that comes off it milky or watery? If it is milky, the cob is ripe and ready for harvest. If it is watery, the cob needs some more time, so just wrap the cob back up and leave it for a few more days before you harvest.

2. Removing the cob from the plant

Woman harvesting Sweetcorn 'Minipop' F1 Hybrid - Zea mays var. rugosa - GAP Photos

Woman harvesting Sweetcorn ‘Minipop’ F1 Hybrid – Zea mays var. rugosa – GAP Photos

If the cob is ripe and ready, remove it from the plant by pulling the cob down towards the ground and away from the stem. The cob should break off at the base. Try to do this firmly and gently so you don’t damage the stem as you may have other corn cobs still ripening on the same plant.

3. Get cooking!

Peeling back husk of Sweetcorn 'Minipop' F1 Hybrid - Zea mays var. rugosa, revealing rows of kernels - © GAP Photos

Peeling back husk of Sweetcorn ‘Minipop’ F1 Hybrid – Zea mays var. rugosa, revealing rows of kernels – © GAP Photos

The sooner the sweetcorn is eaten after harvesting, the sweeter it will be. If you are growing sweetcorn in your garden rather than an allotment, then harvest them as soon as you are ready to eat them. In fact, if possible, get the water bubbling as you rip away the leaves so they can be popped straight in!

Bon Appétit