FARMING 101: PICKING SWEET CORN

Sweet corn is by far one of the most popular summer veggies! Have you ever wondered how the sweet corn you’re eating for dinner got to your plate? Yesterday, a couple of us from the IL Corn office were granted a day in the sweet corn field with a couple of Northern Illinois farmers. We picked approximately 1,500 ears of sweet corn that were donated to a food pantry.

As our morning began we asked farmers, Jim and John, for a quick overview of the sweet corn picking process. While they have been picking sweet corn their whole lives it was difficult for them to describe the art of their technique. We all began working and before long we were covered in mud and sweat along with cuts on our hands from the corn stalks. However, we all had a great time and were reminded the importance of our job promoting the agricultural industry!
Jim and John’s sweet corn fields were planted in late May and early June. While the weather in Illinois has been challenging this year the sweet corn crop was a success.

While every farmer has his own twist as to when the sweet corn is ready they typically revolve back to feeling the ear. The ear should feel full and complete all the way up to the top.

If you are just beginning your picking adventure it is important to pull the shucks back a little ways to check the kernels. This is usually done by puncturing the kernel and checking for a milky juice substance.

The sweet corn ear is then ready to be removed from the stalk. Simply pull the ear in a downward motion until it is disconnected.

Due to different maturity rates and to track your progress, it is often helpful to stomp down the stalk after you have picked the sweet corn.

Many sweet corn farmers feel that raw sweet corn fresh off of the stalk is the best and simply irresistible! Therefore, it is not uncommon for water and corn breaks on a sunny day on the farm.

The sweet corn that is left is gathered and sent to your local farmer’s market or grocery store. After a little cooking on the stove, grill, or even microwave the corn is then placed on your dinner plate! Bon Appétit!

Kelsey Vance
ICMB/ICGA Intern
University of Illinois student

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