If you have never grown them before, it can be a little tricky to know when your Polytunnel sweetcorn is ready to pick. But after a season or two (or three) of testing, squeezing and guessing, you’ll be a dab hand at judging your sweetcorn’s ripeness just by looking at the husks and kernels.
What to Look Out For When Harvesting Sweetcorn
You’re quite possibly looking at sweetcorn stalks which are now taller than you and wondering if the time is right to snap those ears off for tonight’s well-earned dinner. Well, here are a couple of clues to look out for before making the big decision!
First of all, what do the silks at the top of the cob look like? If the silks are still pale yellowy in colour and shiny….It’s not time – Hang fire!
If the silks are brown, dry, and a bit shrivelled up, this is very promising as the sweetcorn kernels become ripe and juicy just about the same time as the silks become brown and shrivelled.
I know it’s very tempting, but to make sure you don’t pick an ear before the time is right, (you wouldn’t want to waste any) it’s a good idea to double check the kernels themselves. You can either peel back the top layers of husks to expose the fat golden kernels or carefully make a small cut vertically into one of the husks.
You’re looking for tight, plump sweetcorn kernels. While you do want to peak at the kernels, you don’t inadvertently want to make it easy for pests to sneak in, so do this with care. As some of the teeny, tiny kernels near the top don’t always fill out, choose a kernel that’s a few down from the top and use your fingernail to puncture a kernel. The liquid inside is going to tell you a lot about your timing. If the liquid that comes out is very clear and watery, they’re not ripe yet – Hang fire! If you can see through the liquid and yet it looks milky – the corn is perfect for picking. Grab the ear and give a snap and a pull up! Job done. If the liquid is completely opaque (you can’t see through it), you’ve waited too long, better luck next year!
Sean Barker is the MD of First Tunnels, and is enthusiastic about providing quality gardening supplies to gardeners across the UK