Sweetest time of the ear



One of my favorite summertime meals features fresh tomatoes and sweet corn straight from the garden.

Nothing but butter and salt on the side while I plow through a half dozen ears on my own until the butter is dripping off my cheeks and elbows. Toss some fresh peaches on the side and I am truly in heaven.

If you already are growing corn, you planted your first seeds just after the threat of frost last spring. We like to serve sweet corn all summer long and to keep your crop coming on strong through fall, you need to stretch its growing season. You can do this by planting seeds every three weeks.

It takes most varieties about three weeks to ripen once it sprouts silks at the end of the ear, so just as you are finishing one row of corn, the next one will be on the verge of ripeness. You can plant your last round of corn in mid July to keep your corn crop rolling until mid fall.


If you look at the corn stalk, it might look like another plant you have in your yard, your grass.

It is actually part of the grass family. The silky strands at the end of each stalk pollinate the ear and successful pollination will result in lots of yummy sweet kernels on the ear. If you see a few missing kernels, those silks got missed by the floating pollen and were never able to develop.

Since pollen flies through the air, it is important to keep the sweet corn planted far away from starchy popcorn or field corn. According to Ohio State University scientists, sweet corn has weaker pollen than other types of corn, so if your sweet corn doesn’t taste very sweet, there is a chance that it was cross-pollinated with another variety. Try to plant your sweet corn at least 25 feet away from any other type of corn to keep it tasting sugary.

Sweet varieties

University of Illinois Extension recommends some sweet midseason varieties that will do well if you are still planting. Lochief is a good midseason grower and pearl white only takes 75 days to harvest. Quickie is a bicolor variety that is usually one of the first to be harvested out of your garden because it only takes 64 days to maturity. Champ sugary extender variety that only takes 68 days until harvest.

Is it ready yet?

So how do you know if it is time to pick the corn? The first clue is to look at the silk at the end of the ear. Once it starts turning brown, the crop is close to ripeness.

Test one by pulling back some of the husk. Poke one of the small kernels at the top of the ear. If it pops and drips with white milky juice, they they are ready to toss in the pot!

If the kernels at the top of the ear pop, then they are ready for the pot.

Contact Kelly Heidbreder at getgrowing@gmail.com.