Maize belongs to the grass family. The botanical name is Zea mays. With an annual harvest of 1 billion tons worldwide, corn takes first place, ahead of rice and wheat. The grain comes from Mexico. Corn is popular with home growers, and many home gardeners cultivate some plants in their garden. When is the corn ripe? When is corn harvest time? Which harvesting technique is the best?

Raw material, energy source, food

Maize is a real all-round talent. In recent years it has developed into a raw material for the production of biogas and bioethanol and is regarded as a beacon of hope for the energy transition. The corn fields along the roads bear witness to this.

Corn is also an important food. By the way, corn is the number one staple food in Asian and African countries.

In European countries, corn is mainly used as animal feed. It also forms the basis of a number of delicious foods for human consumption:

  • Polenta
  • Cornflakes
  • Cornflour
  • Puffbut

People with celiac disease can tolerate cornmeal products well because they are gluten-free.


Various varieties of Zea mays are known worldwide:

  • heart corn
  • tooth corn
  • sweetcorn
  • Puffbut
  • waxy maize
  • starch corn

Sweetcorn is the main food used for human consumption. It tastes sweet and has a pleasant, crunchy consistency.

The plant

Common cultivated corn is a herbaceous plant with alternately arranged leaves. It grows up to three meters high. The infructescence, the so-called corncob, contains the corn kernels. Depending on the variety and degree of ripeness, these are white to yellow, and even red or black in selected breeds.

corn harvest time

Maize harvest in agricultural production takes place from September to November. First the silo maize is harvested, then the grain maize.

When the filaments turn dark brown and the tip of the cob turns yellow, the corn is ripe and harvest time can begin. For the plants in your garden, we recommend a simple test:

  • remove a kernel of corn from the middle of the cob
  • Score the grain with a sharp knife
  • white, milky liquid means the corn is ready for harvest (dairy ripeness)
  • clear, watery liquid means the corn has yet to ripen
Note: If the corn kernels are very hard on the cob, they are already past maturity. Don’t worry, these overripe, hard grains are still excellent for popping.

harvesting technique

The corn harvest is not difficult.

  • Break the corn cobs off the plant with a jerk or cut them off with pruning shears
  • stack in transport baskets
  • get rid of the leaves
  • Eat right away or process quickly
Tip: watch out for the birds. When they start feasting on your corn cobs, the corn is ripe. Then you should start harvesting quickly if you want to get some more. Special protective nets help to protect against the greedy birds.

By the way, the leaves and remains of the corn plant can also be used. When shredded, they make an excellent mulch. If you are creative, you can dry the leaves. These can be used to make decorative baskets, bowls or figures.

Preserve by drying

Separating the kernels from the cob is a very tedious job. However, it is worth separating and drying corn kernels. They will keep for up to a year when dry. Place the corn kernels on parchment paper or paper towels to dry.

Preserve by freezing

We recommend freezing whole cobs or pieces cut into portions. They will keep for several months and you can eventually use them as needed. Before processing, the frozen pieces of corn are briefly blanched.

Idea: In America, the corn is boiled for about five minutes after harvest, taken out of the water and then brushed with salted butter. A real taste experience!

Corn harvest in Germany

With a corn harvest of up to 5 million tons, Germany is by no means one of the major producers. About 80 percent of the German maize harvest ends up in the feeding troughs.

Corn regions in Germany

The most important German growing regions of Zea mays are

  • Bavaria, 121000 hectares
  • North Rhine-Westphalia, 92000 hectares
  • Lower Saxony, 85000 hectares
  • Baden-Württemberg, 65000 hectares

Forecasts for 2019

The hot, dry summer of 2018 was an enormous challenge for agriculture. In the end, corn producers also suffered losses. Not even the more robust silo maize developed cobs of the usual size in all regions. The starch content of the harvest was significantly lower than in previous years. What are the prospects for 2019?

However, the report on the international grain market published by the US Department of Agriculture in June 2019 forecast a significant drop in grain yields. Argentina, the world’s second largest corn producer, is also expecting a loss in the 2019 corn harvest.

The whole of June 2019 was too hot and too dry in Germany. This gives rise to fears of developments similar to those in 2018. Heat and drought are also leading to an earlier start of the corn harvest season in some regions. The corn harvest will begin in the first fields as early as the end of July.

By the way, there is always a discussion as to whether the use of corn as a foodstuff to generate energy is ethically justifiable. Scientists have calculated that the corn harvest will easily be sufficient for food and energy production in the coming years, i.e. for food and fuel. In view of the fact that 11 million tons of food are thrown away every year, a change in thinking should happen quickly.

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