Last week Charlie suggested peeling back the husk on one of our ears of corn to see if they had survived the plants’ falling over during the Great Corntastrophe. To my great surprise and excitement, we had corn! Real, beyond organic, no spray corn. And with no worm damage!
I ended up picking a total of 16 ears. Overall, their pollination was great. There were a few that obviously didn’t get 100% fertilized, but so many were perfect or so close to perfect that I can’t complain at all. We grew corn!
I realize that this is no big deal to most gardeners and farmers in Missouri, but having never grown corn before I was pretty pumped to see that by placing a single seed in the ground I was able to grow a large plant that produced food for me. How cool is that!
When should sweet corn be picked? From Illinois Extension:
Sweet corn ears should be picked during the “milk stage” when the kernels are fully formed but not fully mature. This stage occurs about 20 days after the appearance of the first silk strands. The kernels are smooth and plump and the juice in the kernel appears milky when punctured with a thumbnail. Sweet corn remains in the milk stage less than a week. As harvest time approaches, check frequently to make sure that the kernels do not become too mature and doughy.
I had read this, but I think I was overestimating how big an ear of corn should look like on the plant when it’s mature. The ears I was looking at just couldn’t be mature, could they?
Well, they were. We picked two ears and ate them fresh, and while they were certainly edible and tasty, they were overly mature. They had become a little more chewy than crunchy. A B+ instead of an A+. Lesson learned, keep on top of the corn when it’s maturing.
Since we had so much corn at one time, I decided to preserve it. You can can corn, but since freezing tends to be so much easier I decided to go that route. (Not to mention that we have a freezer large enough to fit two grown men.)
A disclaimer: Generally only your highest quality produce should be used for preserving. Preserving will only cause quality to decrease, not increase. Since I only had one quality of corn, and since I had already acknowledged that the corn wasn’t at its prime maturity but didn’t want to waste it, I decided to go ahead and freeze it. It may not be the best quality in texture, but it is homegrown and I’m willing to accept that I’ll make some mistakes as I’m learning along the way. :)
From the National Center for Home Food Preservation, how to freeze sweet corn in the “whole kernel” style:
- Select only tender, freshly-gathered corn in the milk stage. Husk and trim the ears, remove silks and wash.
- Water blanch 4 minutes. Cool promptly, drain.
- Cut kernels from cob about 2/3 the depth of the kernels.
- Package, leaving ½-inch headspace. Seal and freeze.
You can use a variety of different containers when you’re freezing: freeze-safe canning jars, plastic containers, freezer bags, etc. As much as I don’t like plastic, freezer bags are really easy to use for freezing, so I went that route. I froze the bags lying down so a) the corn wouldn’t all freeze together in a big clump, and b) to make it easy to stack the bags later.
My 16 ears produced about 2 1/2 quarts of whole kernel corn. Not a ton, but enough to contribute towards our diet during the winter. I’ll definitely grow corn again next year.