Growing food

Why Your Homegrown Corn is Chewy

Corn you have grown yourself at home can taste so much better than corn you can buy in the store. And you can choose a wide range of options for homegrown corn that are not easy to find in the stores. But if homegrown corn is chewy, it can be very disappointing. Working out why the chewiness occurred can help you to avoid this problem in the future.

Your homegrown corn might be chewy because of the wrong type of corn chosen or timing about when you picked your corn. Another reason may be storing it too long. Or the chewiness might be down to how you prepared or cooked your corn.

Read on to find out a little more and to discover why your homegrown corn is chewy.

You May Have Chosen The Wrong Type of Corn

First of all, it is important to choose the corn you grow wisely. Certain corn varieties are better for sweetcorn or corn on the cob, while others are popping corn or corn that is dried and used for flours etc. If you try to eat a popping or flour corn as corn on the cob – the results may well have been disappointing.

Make sure you choose varieties that are suited to your needs and, of course, to where you live and the conditions in which you are growing. Corns suited to warmer climes will often provide disappointing results if you try to grow them in a cooler climate zone, for example. Corns suited to higher rainfall areas may not be in top condition if you grow them in an arid area. Make sure you do your research and choose heritage or modern corn cultivars suited to your needs and your area.

You should also remember that certain corn can cross-pollinate. If this has occurred, then the results from this corn may not be as tasty, and you may find that the corn from these plants is chewy or otherwise less than optimal in taste and flavor. This is something to bear in mind if you save your own corn seed for replanting.

There May Have Been Pollination Problems/ Other Problems During Growth

Choosing the wrong corn for the growing conditions is not the only reason why something may have gone wrong during growth. Even if you have picked ideal corn for your needs and your location, other problems may have cropped up that might have made your corn taste chewy.

For example, one issue that might have arisen is poor pollination. When corn cobs are not pollinated correctly, some of the kernels may be flat and not milky and ripe, even at the correct time for harvest. Poorly developed kernels may result in a chewy taste.

Growing corn in blocks rather than rows can help reduce pollination issues and make sure that corn kernels develop as they should. Blocks should ideally be at least four rows deep and four rows wide (in blocks of 16 plants). If you are growing in a smaller space, in a square foot garden, for example, you should consider dwarf varieties to get the best results and the best quality yield from the space.

Corn may also have pollination problems if, in cooler climates, you sowed your corn too early and temperatures were too low. High temperatures can also sometimes lead to pollination problems. Make sure you have positioned your corn in an appropriate place in your garden and got the timings right when it comes to sowing/planting.

Other problems may also lead to poor kernel formation. For example, there may have been a problem with moisture loss or a lack of water. Or the plants may not have received the nutrients they needed from the soil. Taking good care of the soil in your garden and companion planting with beans and squash (the ‘three sisters’ companion planting scheme) can help to make sure your corn develops properly, and you grow healthy crops that yield delicious corn.

You May Have Harvested Too Early or Too Late

This is, perhaps, the most common reason that homegrown corn is chewy. Many growing corn for the first time will make the mistake of harvesting their crop too early or too late.

Corn should be harvested when the kernels are crisp and, when punctured, release a milky sap. The corn will typically only stay at this optimum ‘milk’ stage for around five days, so it is easy to harvest too early or too late.

If you picked your corn when the silks were still green or when the sap was still clear, you harvested too early. This may have been why your corn was chewy.

If you missed the milk stage, kernels might have been filled out fully and not have released a milky sap when you harvested. If this was the case, you harvested your corn when it was over-ripe and may have found the corn tough and chewy as a result.

One way to estimate when your corn is ready to harvest is to look at the time when the corn silks began appearing on the corn and when all the ears had their silks. In the right conditions, pollination will occur after the cornsilks appear, and ripe ears will develop around 18-24 days later (depending on your location, weather conditions, and the variety you have chosen to grow).

If in doubt, check kernels regularly after the husks start to fade, and look for the tell-tale milky sap to make sure that you harvest at the right time in the future.

You May Have Stored Your Corn Too Long Or Stored Improperly

It is also very important to remember that corn will not taste as good, at its texture can definitely suffer if you do not process and store or eat your corn correctly quickly after the harvest. Especially if you grow a ‘real’ heirloom or heritage corn variety, every moment counts.

As soon as you harvest the corn, plant processes begin to turn the sugar in the plant to starch. The quicker you eat or freeze the corn, the better. The less time elapses between harvest and eating or freezing, the better quality the corn will be, the better its texture and taste will be.

If you are not eating the corn right away, it is best to blanch the corn briefly before freezing so that the enzyme processes are stopped in their tracks. Make sure you are prepared to process the corn before you even head outside to harvest your crop.

If you have a lot of corn to process, store the cobs in your refrigerator. Cold temperatures will retard the process and keep the corn sweeter for longer. But you should still get to them as soon as possible.

If you are canning your corn or preserving it in some other way, it is important to follow a recipe from a trusted source to the letter to make sure your homemade corn is not chewy. If you do not process and store corn correctly, its taste and texture will definitely suffer.

There May Have Been a Problem With How You Prepared/ Cooked Your Corn

Finally, no matter what type of corn you grow, and no matter how you prepare and cook it, your homegrown corn may taste chewy not because of any other issue but simply due to how you cooked it.

Corn to be eaten fresh can be cooked in boiling water or steamed on the stove, in a steamer, or in a microwave. But cooking time is important, and your homegrown corn may be chewy because you simply cooked it for too long. Overcooking corn can make it very tough and chewy.

You should also make sure that you do not cook corn in salted water. Salt can make the corn chewy and tough to eat. This is because the salt breaks down the skin of the kernels, making them rupture and lose their moisture. One handy hint is to add a little honey to the water, which can help kernels stay intact and also enhance the natural sweetness of the corn.

If you are microwaving, cooking the corn cobs inside their husks can help make sure you get good results.

Working out what made your homegrown corn chewy this time can help you make sure your corn is sweet, delicious, and crisp in the future. Working your way through the list above should help you find the root cause and get to the bottom of this problem.

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