Sweet corn harvest time arrives

Published 5:40 pm Wednesday, August 2, 2023

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By Pam Wiley

Virginia Farm Bureau

July means sweet corn harvest has arrived, and some Virginia farmers are predicting a successful season. 

Grown throughout Virginia, sweet corn typically appears in farmers markets and grocery stores in June and is available as late as mid-October.

Aaron Goode, owner of Chesterfield Berry Farm, said his sweet corn is ready for picking after a relatively smooth-sailing growing season.

“It was pretty dry for a while, but the crop looks good,” he said. Goode added that rain showers in late June helped his Supersweet variety bicolor corn withstand dry conditions earlier in the month.

Mike Cullipher of Cullipher Farm in Virginia Beach similarly reported “unseasonably dry” conditions in May and early June, which he managed with irrigation. The biggest hurdle was a prolonged, cooler spring.

Sweet corn prefers a sunny, warm environment, thriving in temperatures between 60° and 75°, according to Virginia Cooperative Extension. In early June, daily low temperatures dropped to the 40s and 50s in Virginia Beach, according to AccuWeather.

“The cold was more of an issue than the dryness,” Cullipher said. “The corn was slow to grow and mature, but it was more of a nuisance than anything.”

Despite challenges, he said “it’s looking a lot better now,” and he anticipates a fruitful sweet corn season.

Cullipher grows around 20 acres of bicolor varieties, producing flavorful ears with white and yellow kernels.

According to Extension, Xtra-Sweet® or Supersweet varieties convert sugar into starch more slowly than standard varieties, retaining their sweetness long after harvest.

Cullipher began picking sweet corn in late June and hopes to extend the season to Halloween. But he encourages consumers to seize the sweet corn season before summer’s end.

“Even though we grow it until October, most people associate sweet corn with summertime cookouts, grilling and things like that. And when school is out, people tend to do those things more,” he said. “Everyone should include sweet corn as much as they can in their meals.”

The prime time to pick sweet corn is just before eating it. Extension recommends plunging the ears into ice water or putting them on ice for a short time. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.