Guide to Corn

The first ear of corn heralds the arrival of summer. Enjoy its glorious sweetness and crisp, juicy texture for as long as the season lasts.

SEASON: Summer

CHOOSING: Look for green, moist husks that cling tightly to the corn. Deep brown silk tips or ends mean it’s ripe, but the whole silk shouldn’t be dried up. To check, peel the husk slightly, and check the top row of kernels for plumpness and density. The ultimate test is to pierce a kernel with your fingernail. If it is milky, it’s just right.

STORING: As soon as it’s picked, the flavor of corn changes. The sugars immediately begin turning to starch. If possible, shop for same-day harvests in local markets to get the highest sugar content and peak of perfection. If you can’t eat the corn immediately, store it in the refrigerator with the husks intact, and eat within two days of purchasing for the best taste. Don’t shuck until you’re ready to use.

GROWING: Plant corn after the danger of frost has passed in a well-drained location that receives a minimum of six to eight hours of sun a day. Although it’s tempting to plant early to get that first ear of sweet corn, resist the urge. Corn doesn’t germinate well or grow very fast when the soil is cold. It is better to wait a week or two after the last frost, when the soil has warmed, planting seeds about 1 inch deep.

Sow seeds in blocks (several rows together); instead of one 20-foot row, plant four 5-foot rows for easier pollination by wind. This improves pollination so you won’t find gaps in the rows of kernels on your cob. Water weekly to ensure your corn doesn’t dry out on the stalk before it’s time to harvest. Corn matures in 60 to 100 days, depending on the variety, and should be ready to be picked about 20 days after the first silk strands appear. Not every ear in the row will be ready at the same time.