Corn has a bad reputation these days. It is included in everything from breakfast cereals and dog food to skin care products. So how can it be healthy?

A vertical close-up image of large ears of wheat, ready for harvest, with dark, dry tassels surrounded by foliage, depicted in bright sunshine with a blue sky in the background.

Well, my friends, that's it. Especially sweet corn, which is loaded with fiber, vitamin C, folic acid, thiamine, magnesium and potassium, all of which are essential for human health.

It is the processed products that you have to look out for, not the delicacies grown in the garden. Corn is indeed a whole grain!

Suppose you planted nutritious corn.

They have sown the seeds and watched them grow from cute green seedlings to massive stalks four to six feet high, depending on the variety you planted.

The tassels dusted the silk with ease. The ears have developed into beautiful pistons.

If it Sweet corn variety As you grow, you dream of peeling the peel and taking a big bite of fresh, extremely delicious grains.

A close-up of the ears of freshly harvested sweet corn on a wooden surface with the leaves pulled back to reveal the yellow kernels underneath.

Yes, you can eat sweet corn – considered vegetable in most cases – raw. Yes, I literally just learned that.

Or you can grow dent corn, which is classified as grain to make local tortillas. Or popcorn for your own delicious poppable cobs.

No matter what variety you choose, you're ready to harvest … think.

But you are not sure. How can you tell when the corn is ready? Are there any signs to look out for? And when it's done, how do you get the ears off the stems?

In this guide, I answer all of these questions.

Ready to harvest? Let's go!

The five varieties of corn

Before we get started, you should know that there are five main corn varieties that gardeners grow:

  • Dents, also known as field corn (Zea mays var. Indentata), are typically used to feed cattle or are dried and ground as cereals.
  • Sweet, also known as the best type ever (Z. mays var. Saccharata or Z. mays var. Rugosa), is most commonly sold and eaten fresh as a vegetable, or can be canned or frozen.
  • Flint (Z. mays var. Indurata), also known as Indian corn, is available in different colors and is also used as animal feed or for the production of corn flour.
  • Flour (Z. mays var. Amylacea), as the name suggests, is typically used to produce corn flour.
  • Popcorn (Z. mays var. Everta) is a special type of flint corn that is grown when the kernels are dried and heated instead of cracking.

The good news is that even with five different types of corn, there are only two main methods of harvesting them. And the difference is actually limited in time: it's only about when you harvest.

When to harvest

For the sake of simplicity, I divided the two harvesting times or methods into two sections: milk phase and dry phase.

Milk stage harvest

If you want this sweet, slightly crispy corn cob that is divine for roasting, you should harvest ears at the milk stage.

At this point, mainly sweet and occasionally dented varieties are harvested from the five main types.

Here you can learn more about the cultivation of sweet corn.

The milk stage is when the grains are filled with milky-sweet juice, and it occurs about 18-20 days after the appearance of the female silk …

A close-up of small silks that are just appearing on a Zea mays stem, with leaves in soft focus to the left and right of the frame, shown in bright sunshine.

… and are wind-pollinated by the male tassels.

A close-up of the Zea mays pollinating male tassels, with foliage to the right of the frame on a background of blue sky.

Silk formation usually takes place around 50 to 65 days after sowing, depending on the variety and growing conditions.

To harvest milk at the milk stage, you should examine it for signs of readiness about 70 to 80 days after sowing.

Here's how you can tell: the ears are green and feel full and firm when you put your hand around them, and the silk has a dried brown color.

A close-up of an ear of corn ready for harvest showing dried brown silk. Shown in bright sunshine with leaves in soft focus in the background.

To make sure the cores are ready, gently open the leaves and insert your fingernail into a core. You should see sweet, milky juice – not a clear, watery liquid.

If you see the former, you can harvest well. But if it's watery, just cover the kernels again and give the ear a few more days to ripen.

To harvest the ears, grasp them with your hand and gently twist or bend them down until they break off the stem.

A vertical image of a young woman pulling an ear of corn from the stalk in the middle of a corn field. Pictured in bright sunshine.

Like summer lovers everywhere, you can roast the flasks on the grill and lather them with butter and salt.

Or just eat them raw straight from the garden. I absolutely plan to try this when my sweet corn reaches the milk stage this year.

Two children sit on a cornfield and hold freshly harvested ears, which they eat raw.

You want to consume or preserve sweet corn within six hours after harvest for the best taste.

In the days after the maize is harvested, the sugar gradually becomes turn to strengthThis makes them less sweet and tough.

If you want to keep it for a few days before eating it fresh, leave it in the bowl, wrap it in damp paper towels to keep it moist, and cool it for up to four days.

To keep the sweet kernels for later use, you can either:

Blanch the ears in boiling water for three minutes, let them cool, and then cut the grains from the plunger at a depth of 3/4 of the core.

Then freeze them in a zippered plastic bag or an airtight container, or press the cores under pressure.

Repeat the above process for creamed corn, but cut the kernels halfway down so that you don't get the hard base of the kernels.

Then scrape the rest of the corn off the cob and mix it with the cut kernels.

To freeze corn on the cob, cook the ears for 7 to 11 minutes, depending on their size (7 minutes for smaller ears, 9 minutes for medium-sized ears and 11 minutes for the largest ones), and then cool them in an ice bath.

Cut into 4 to 6 inch pieces and store in airtight containers in the freezer.

Frozen corn stays in the freezer for about 12 months.

Dry harvest

For varieties of popcorn, flint, flour and bumps, most growers wait until the grains are completely dry before harvesting.

A close-up of dried, variegated corn that is still attached to a pile of dried leaves.

That's because popcorn is one Moisture content of 13-14 percent to give him the perfect pop.

Flint, flour and dents are either used for decoration, fed to farm animals or ground to maize flour or flour.

A close-up of a metal scoop digging into freshly popped popcorn and fading to soft focus in the background.

This ripening and drying process usually takes about 110 to 120 days.

But the wait is worth it! It's also pretty easy.

You just have to wait for the corn to dry completely. The shells, silks and tassels are all brown.

A close-up of a farmer holding two freshly harvested Zea mays ears with dried stems in soft focus in the background.

The kernels should feel rock hard, but too much or too little moisture can cause bad popping.

To test this, scrape off a few grains and try putting them in the microwave or in a saucepan on the stove. If the bursting cores are too rubbery when biting or have jagged edges, they are not ready.

If you really take your popcorn seriously, you can test the moisture content using the following method:

Grind a few grains into a coarse flour and weigh it. Then dry in the oven at 250 ° F for three hours and weigh again.

Then subtract the dried weight from the original weight and divide it by the original weight to get the percent moisture content of the popcorn.

Then you know whether it needs to dry a little longer.

When the popped grains taste light and feel crispy on your tongue, pull the butts off the dying stems and scrape the grains into a bowl with a butter knife.

You can keep the popcorn in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to two years.

A top-down close-up of a wooden bowl of fresh popcorn on a wooden surface with two cups to the left of the frame, one of which contains uncracked grains and the other contains sweet honey.Photo by Fanny Slater.

For popping instructions, check out this delicious salted honey butter popcorn recipe our sister site Foodal.

To grind flour or to put corn in corn flour, put it in your high-speed blender or food processor and grind it to the desired consistency or take out the flour mill. Don't you have one yet Choose your favorite Evaluation of the best worktop flour mills on Foodal.

(I did this several times with dried dent corn in my Blendtec because I love cornmeal porridge that resembles polenta or semolina.)

Store corn flour in an airtight container in the freezer, up to 18 months in the refrigerator, or up to one year in the pantry.

A close-up of freshly baked cornmeal cookies placed on a metal surface.Photo by Meghan Yager.

Then bake these delicious lemon cornmeal cookies, also from FoodalYou have grown whole grain corn flour in your own garden.

How cool is that

A stupid idea

Once you've grown and harvested your corn, there are a ton of different ways to prepare it. I love it Grilled coriander and lime corn from Foodal, especially on avocado toast.

A close-up of an ear of corn with the outer leaves retracted shows the bright yellow grains depicted in bright sunshine and fading to soft focus in the background.

Let your creativity guide you. This grain / vegetable is freshly grown in your garden and gives your diet a solid layer of nutrients and joy.

What do you prefer to eat home grown corn? Let us know in the comments!

And remember to read these articles for more information Growing corn in your garden Next:

Photos by Fanny Slater and Meghan Yager © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. For more information, please see our Terms of Use. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock.

About Laura Melchor

Laura Melchor grew up and helped her mother in the garden in Montana. As an adult, she brought her gardening skills home in Alaska in cold weather. She is particularly proud of the flower beds that she and her three-year-old son built with stones that were dug up from their small homestead in Alaska. As a freelance writer, she contributes to several websites and blogs on the Internet. Laura also writes novels and has an MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts.