Corn left on the stalk for too long after it matures becomes starchy and tough; you can’t just leave it there until you are ready. But there are a few ways you can go about planting your corn so that you will be enjoying it fresh over a longer period of time this season, without the worry of it deteriorating in flavor and texture.
One easy way is to plant a few different varieties. Corn falls into three main categories: early, mid-season, and late. As their names imply, they mature at different times in the summer. Days to maturity among varieties can vary by as much as three weeks, so planting a row of each will extend your harvest time.
You can also stagger plantings. If there is one particular variety that you prefer, plant your corn seeds at 1- to 2-week intervals, depending on how often you expect to eat it. Keep in mind that the warmer the weather gets, the faster the corn will mature. So as you plant, increase the time between putting in seeds. Again, keep in mind the days to maturity of your corn. Add 10 days to that number (for the time it can take the corn seeds to sprout), and stop planting when your corn will be out of sufficient time to mature.
There are corn varieties now that did not exist when I was little. Some have been hybrid to be able to stay on the stalk longer. We planted one variety called 'Fantastic', that claims it can stay happily on the stalk for an additional 10 days, giving us the opportunity to enjoy another ear from the same stalk a week or so later.
I remember when I was a kid my dad would always put the pot of water on the stove before heading to the garden to harvest the corn. All the kids were on stand-by to start husking it upon his return, as the corn turns starchy even faster after it is harvested. There are a number of varieties of corn now that did not exist when my dad would be running towards the house with arms full of corn.
Yes, he took his corn eating that seriously.
The hybrid mentioned above also claims it can be kept up to a week after harvest, with no ill effects if kept cool. Likewise the variety 'Silver Queen' is reputed to be able to be held for several days after harvesting.
This year we planted 6 varieties of corn, about 5 ½ dozen plants all together. They range in days to maturity from 72 to 88 days, with 2 varieties able to be left on the stalk and/or kept in cool storage. This gives us about a month of fresh eating; and works well to give us enough time to preserve the remainder of the corn for the winter months.
Gardening Jones is a master gardener in Pennsylvania. Learn more at gardeningjones.com/blog.
Learn to grow corn and more in the Smart Gardening Techniques: Favorite Vegetables download.
The Native American Three Sisters seed collection includes seeds of corn, pumpkins and beans.
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