How and When to Harvest Corns


Corn is an annual plant that thrives in warm seasons. It can grow from 4 to 12 feet (1.2-3.6 m) tall. It is popularly known as maize too. People throughout the globe grow it. It has attained the status of a staple meal in many areas of the planet.

It is either consumed directly or used as an ingredient in a plethora of dishes ranging from salads to soups. People change it into flour too used in many recipes. The roasted corn is a must-try in the rainy season!

There are mainly five types of corn grown by the planters. Let us know more about these varieties;

1)Sweet Corn

The most famous corn is sweet corn. As the name shows, it has high sugar content. It is also known as Sugar corn, pole corn, and sweetcorn. People around the globe use it as a veggie. It can be pressure-canned and frozen for future purposes. 


2)Dent Corn

It is also known as field corn. People use it to feed livestock or dry and mill as a grain. Also, they use it in a variety of food items such as corn chips and tortillas.


3)Flint Corn

It is even called Common corn or Indian corn. People use it to feed animals and make cornmeal. It comes in a variety of colours.


4)Flour Corn

People use it mainly for making corn flour. It is a variant having a soft starchy endosperm.



It is a variety of corn that fluffs on heating. A super favourite of everybody!


A sigh of relief is that all these varieties do not have specific procedures or time to harvest. They all fall into two methods of harvesting. So, let us discuss the two important questions to harvest any crop- When and How to harvest!



For harvesting all the varieties, Planters need to harvest corn at two stages- Milk and dry.

Let us know more about these two stages:

When to Harvest Corns
When to Harvest Corns


It is the stage when the corn is still immature. If you wish to have a sweet flavor in the corn, this is the right time to harvest.

Mainly, people harvest sweet corn and sometimes dent corn at this stage.


It is the stage when the kernel is completely dry. Growers wait till this stage for popcorn, flint, flour, and dent varieties. The maturity and drying process nearly takes 110-120 days.

The reason behind the wait is the moisture level requirement in the case of popcorn. It requires a moisture level of 13 to 14 percent to give it that perfect pop.

People use the other three – Flint, flour, and dent cobs to feed livestock, make cornmeal or flour, or merely for decoration.


Now, when we know about the stages of harvesting, let us discuss how to know whether the required stage has started or not.

There are several signs that show that the crop is ready to harvest. We will discuss the various signs that indicate the two stages.


 Let us see what these indicators are in case you opt for Milk stage harvesting.

1) Browning of silks

The cobs are the female part, a kernel is the flower of the plant. The silks or tassels are the stigmas of these flowers. Each tassel needs to get fertilized when pollen from stamen located at the top of the plant lands on them. When pollination occurs, the kernel swells giving us the corn cob available to eat.

Silks appear usually after 50- 60 days of sowing, depending on variety and growing conditions. When these silks brown after getting dry, it is an indicator that the cob formation is over. If the silks have a light blond colour, it indicates that the cobs are yet to grow fully. So, it is better to wait in such a situation.

2) Size of Cobs

Swollen cobs are a good sign that their growing process is over. The kernels must be fleshy and compactly arranged. Make sure the cob is full of kernels from base to the tip. Check the kernels using your hands. You may remove the outer coverings a little bit too for checking properly.

3) Milky Sap

When the Juice from the cob is milky, the corn is ready for the pick. If the liquid is clear, then you must wait for a few more days. If there is no juice, then the cobs have started drying. If you wish to have a softer variety, then go ahead for harvesting quickly.

Test the kernel for the colour of its sap. Tear a little husk down to expose a few kernels. Remember not to rip off the husk completely, because in case they are not ready for harvest, there is a need to cover the cob up again. When the husk rips off, the corn becomes more susceptible to insect and bird attacks.

4)Tip of the Ear

Pull a little of the husk back to see the top of the ear. If it is moist and green, then the time to harvest is away. If it is dry in the end, it is a good sign that you can go for harvesting! 

Also, pay attention to the shape of the tip. It should be round rather than blunt or pointed. So, if the desired size is still not there, it is better to wait for a few more days for harvesting!

5)Date on the Seed Packet

Depending on the variety, know about the expected harvest time using the seed packets or check with your supplier.


Keep an eye on the various indicators of harvest near the date mentioned by the supplier or the maturity date given on the seed packet of the variety.



There are various signs that show that varieties like popcorn are ready to harvest. Let us know about them in detail.


Growers should let the maize dry up completely. The silks and husks would become brown in colour when they dry completely. If the husks are still green, it shows that the crop is not ripe yet. So, it is advisable to wait more!

2)Moisture Content

The kernels should be hard. Too much or too little moisture can result in bad popping. Let us know how we can test whether our corn is ready to harvest or not.


1) Pop Test

To test the maturity of the crop, you can take some kennels as a sample. Then, place them in the microwave or a container on heat. If the popped kernels are too rubbery or have rough edges, they are not ready yet. Let the crop wait for the harvest!

2) Moisture Content Test

Another way of testing the moisture level in the corn is as follows:

  • Make coarse flour by Grinding some kernels. Note down its weight. 
  • Dry it for Three hours in the oven at 250° F and weigh it again.
  • Find the difference between the two weights. Divide the result with the original weight to know the moisture content in percentage.
  • Check with the prescribed rates of moisture and decide whether to harvest or wait!


It is important to know when is the right time to harvest maize depending on the variety. People eat roasted corn and love to have a sweet flavour in it. Preserving the sweetness is the main issue when it comes to harvesting sweet corn.

The corn plant makes natural sugars in the growing stage. Kernels are the seeds that have a storage compartment along with the corn embryo. Corn seed cannot store sugars. It lives off it during the early development stages and the winter months. 

When the kernels are full of sugar, the plant begins to convert it to starch. For best flavour, it is advisable to harvest before this change initiates.

The sweetness depends on a plethora of factors like the variety, soil, and weather conditions. When the temperature is cool, the plant produces more sugar. When the temperature is too high, the sugar manufacturing process slows down.

Also, Read- When to Harvest Watermelon


An ear of sweet corn takes around 60-80 days to be ready for harvest. Keep an eye over the crop after 60 days of sowing.

Other dry varieties like flint corn and popcorn take around 80-100 days to be ready. Keep a check over the crop after 80 days of planting.

It is advisable to harvest corn in the morning. Corn is easy to harvest in hot weather. Ideal temperatures are over 90 °F (32 °C).


Once you know the right time to harvest, it is important to learn the correct method of harvesting corn. It does not require any implements or tools. You just need to use your hands for the purpose.

Let us learn more about How to Harvest Corns:

  • To harvest corn, twist and then detach the corn ears from the stalk. It is better to keep the corn in the non-dominant hand and use the other one to pull the ear down and tug hard. Usually, the cob detaches easily from the plant. 
  • If you do not twist the corn ear, then the whole plant can be dead due to pulling. 
  • Cut the stalks into 0.5 m (1 foot) length immediately after harvesting.
  • Keep them in a bucket or a pile for a while.
  • The sweet corn can lose up to 50% of its sugar if left at room temperature for a day. Prepare the sweet corn to avoid taste deterioration. Plunge the crop in lukewarm water to save its sweetness. Either consume or preserve the corns within six hours of harvesting. 



Once the harvest process is over, the next step is to store the corn well to ensure longer shelf life. Let us see what is important to know before storing the yield.

Storing Sweet Corn

Let us first discuss how we can get the most out of our sweet corn. Depending on the purpose, you can decide to store the sweet corn either for short or long terms.

-Short Term Storage

A cool and dry place is ideal for storage. For short term storage, you can keep the corn in the refrigerator for 2 to 4 days after wrapping unopened husks in damp paper towels.

-Long Term Storage

You can preserve the Sweet corn for 6 to 8 months after blanching. Use boiling water to blanch the corn. Boil for three minutes and cool before storing. Place them in a sealed vessel and reserve them in the freezer.

You can make pieces of the kernels too before freezing to reduce the space consumption for storage. If you run out of space in the refrigerator or you do not wish to freeze the maize, you can put the airtight container in a pantry for up to one year.

Another way of freezing is to boil the ears for 7-11 minutes, depending on their size (7 minutes for small ears, 9 for medium ears, and 11 for the big cobs). Then, cool them using ice. Cut into pieces and store in sealed containers.

You may keep the corn for storage up to 3 to 5 years. Blanch the corn and remove the kernels with a knife. Store the seeds in a jar and seal it using a pressure canner.

In case, you wish to remove the silk hairs. You may use a small toothbrush to rub the silk hairs on the kennel.

Storing Dry Varieties

To dry the cobs, hang them for 2-3 weeks in an empty indoor space. A garage or a shed is a desired place for the process. Tie thread around the corn cob and hang from the ceiling. Then, transfer to a dry container such as a storage bin or bucket once the drying process is over.

Once popcorn cob is dry, get the kernels off the cob using hands or a knife. Store in an airtight container at a cool and dry place. To store these variants, you can make flour too.


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