Tag Archives: corn

8 Steps to Saving Corn Seed

In a previous post, we gave you 22 reasons to save seed in 2022. We hope that all of our customers are considering saving some seed this year. If you’re new to seed saving, one crop that’s great for beginners is corn. Whether you’re growing sweet corn, flour corn, Gourdseed corn, or popcorn, saving corn seed is simple! It’s an easy-to-grow annual, and its large seeds are easy to process and store. 

Selecting a Variety 

When selecting a corn variety, whether you’re growing sweet corn, popcorn, or flour corn, you need to choose an open-pollinated variety. These are seeds that were pollinated by other plants of the same variety. This means that as long as you keep them isolated from other varieties, they will keep producing true to this variety year after year. All heirlooms are open-pollinated.

Hybrids are seeds that are the result of a cross between two varieties. Typically seed saved from hybrids will not produce plants that are the same as the parent plant. 

Sweet Corn hybrids are the only hybrid varieties we carry at SESE. We have a couple of hybrid sweet corns because some of the farmers and market gardeners who purchase our seed prefer the uniformity and reliability of these hybrids. However, they’re not suitable for seed saving. 

Plan Your Garden for Saving Corn Seed

Unlike most garden vegetables that rely on insect pollination, corn is a wind-pollinated crop. Pollen is carried from the tassels of corn stalks to the silks on other stalks by the wind. Each silk connects to a potential kernel (a plant ovule). If you’ve ever had corn that didn’t produce many kernels, it’s because they weren’t fertilized. 

When you plan your garden’s layout, you want to ensure that the corn you intend to save seed from is separated from other varieties by 600 feet for home use or one mile for pure seed. 

Select Your Best Plants

When you save seed year after year, you have the ability to improve a variety. You can select for a variety of plant characteristics. You can select for traits like flavor, earliness, disease resistance, and drought tolerance if you save seed from the plants that perform the best. 

Let Your Corn Fully Mature

When harvesting corn for seed, it’s essential to let the corn fully mature and dry on the plant. The husk and stalks should be papery and brown. The silks should be dry and brown. When you harvest, the kernels should feel hard and dry. You shouldn’t be able to puncture them with a thumbnail. Sweet corn kernels should have a wrinkled appearance.Ira Shelling Blue Clarage (saving corn seed)

Harvest Your Seeds

You want to ensure you’re saving enough to maintain genetic diversity when you harvest seed. Save at least 500 seeds from at least 10% of the plants to maintain the vigor and genetic diversity of the variety.

Dry Your Ears

Most corn should be dried further after harvesting to ensure mold doesn’t develop in storage. You’ll want to dry your corn somewhere out of direct sunlight. 

You can do this in a few ways. One option is to pull back the husks but not remove them. They can be hung from the husks separately or braided into bunches. You can also remove the husks entirely and hang the cobs in mesh bags. It’s a good idea to shake the bags around every couple of days to ensure all the cobs are drying evenly. Lastly, you can lay the cobs out on a rack or screen. Large screens can be made using lumber and chicken wire or hardware cloth.

Process Your Seeds

Corn seed is easy to process. To remove the kernels, you can use your hand and twist it over the kernels. You can also use a corn sheller to make this process easier on your hands. 

Though it isn’t strictly necessary if your corn is just for seed use, you can winnow out any chafe (plant material). To do this, place a box fan on a chair or stool with a bucket in front of it. Then, with the fan on, dump your corn seed into the bucket. The fan should blow away the lighter plant material while the kernels fall into the bucket. You may have to do this several times to remove all the chafe.

Store Your Seeds

Once your seeds are fully dry and clean, you can store them in airtight containers. Mason jars work well for this. Keep them somewhere cool and dark until you’re ready to plant them next season!

Learn how to do a germination test in this post, Seeds: Tips for Storing, Testing, & Saving.

Using these eight simple steps, you can save seed from your corn crop! To learn more about saving seeds from other crops, check out these posts: Easy Seed Saving with Promiscuous Pollination, 7 Steps to Saving Cucumber Seed, 6 Steps to Saving Pumpkin Seeds, Seed Saving from Biennial Crops, and Seed Saving for Beginners.

7 Crops You Can Plant in July

Spring and summer always seem to go so fast. There’s so much to get done in the garden. We’re headed into July, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t still get some plants in. Here are a few summer crops you can sow this month.


Beans are a productive, quick-growing crop that’s perfect for sowing late in the season. You’ll need to water them thoroughly, especially as they get established, but they tolerate the midsummer heat with no problems. 

For late sowings, some of our favorites are bush snap beans like Provider, Royalty Purple Pod, Contender (Buff Valentine), and Blue Lake Bush (Blue Lake 274). These varieties are all ready to harvest in 48 to 55 days. 


The classic hot weather green, collards can be sowed right through summer. During the summer, they’re lovely shredded and added to stir-fries, salads, and slaws or blended into smoothies. As the weather cools in the fall, you can add them to soups and chili. They can also be fermented to make kraut or kimchi.

Some of our favorite varieties for summer planting include Georgia Green (Georgia Southern, Creole) Collards, Green Glaze Collards, Whaley’s Favorite Cabbage Collards, and Vates Collards. They’re ready to harvest in as little as 68 days. 


Corn thrives during the summer heat. It’s an excellent crop for succession planting to spread out your harvest. When selecting a variety, check the days to harvest to ensure that you choose a variety that will mature before your area’s first frost date. 

A few quick maturing varieties include Buhl Sweet Corn (81 days), Chires Baby Sweet Corn (75 days), Country Gentleman Sweet Corn (93 days), and Bodacious RM (75 days) which is one of the few hybrid corn varieties we carry. 

You may notice a few dent corn varieties, such as Reid’s Yellow Dent Corn, have two maturity dates listed. The first date is for roasting, and the second is for grinding and drying. If you’re interested in roasting, Reid’s (85/110 days), Hickory King (85/110 days), and Hickory Cane (85/110 days) are options.

Homemade Pickles Pickling Cucumber


Both pickling and slicing cucumbers are dependable summer crops. They can be sown in July and tolerate the heat well as long as they’re watered consistently. 

Some of our favorite options for pickling cucumbers include Arkansas Little Leaf (59 days) and Homemade Pickles (55 days). They’re both vigorous, productive, and disease resistant. 

If you’re want to sow slicing cucumbers, this July some of our favorites include White Wonder (58 days), which is very productive in hot weather, and Marketmore 76 (57 days) and Straight Eight (57 days), which are very dependable and productive. 

Southern Peas

Southern peas are also called cowpeas, crowder peas, field peas, or black-eyed peas. They’re an incredibly productive staple crop that can be grown when both days and nights are warm for a period of 60-90 days.

They’re drought-resistant and do well in warm soil. We still have some varieties available. However, the pandemic seed orders sales surge has especially affected our inventory for southern peas. New seed crops are being grown out – we’ll have more seed available again in Nov/Dec 2021!

Summer Squash and Zucchini

Summer squash and zucchini thrive in the summer heat. They’re quick to mature and are ready to harvest in between 48 and 68 days. 

Some of the varieties we recommend include Black Beauty Zucchini (48 days), Early Prolific Straightneck Summer Squash (48 days), Benning’s Green Tint Summer Squash (52 days). They’re vigorous and productive. 

Swiss Chard

Many greens don’t stand up to the summer heat, but Swiss chard will produce all summer and into fall. They can be harvested in as little as 25 days for baby greens or 50 to 60 days for mature leaves.

Perpetual Spinach (Leaf Beet Chard) is a great hot weather substitute for spinach in the southeast. Rainbow Swiss chard is a great way to add both beauty and flavor to the garden. Barese is sweeter than other chard varieties.

Add a few of these to your garden this July for delicious late summer and fall harvests. 

Harvesting, Drying, & Eating Popcorn

Cherokee Long Ear Small

Though the grocery store may only carry yellow or white popcorn home gardeners know that popcorn comes in variety of colors. You may also know that popcorn can be used in a variety of ways. In fact, popcorn was probably first ground like other flour corns to make bread. Native Americans had domesticated popcorn by 5000 B.C.E. but as far as currently available archeological evidence suggests, popping popcorn as we do today didn’t become popular until the 1820s.

Check out the PBS article, History of Popcorn, for more interesting information.


Popcorn should be left to dry in the field as long as possible. When you harvest, the husks should be completely dry and the kernels hard. You should then dry your corn as soon as possible.


Once you’ve harvested your popcorn, it should be hung somewhere cool and dry. An easy way to do this is to pull the husks back, remove the strings, and hang them on a line with clothespins either indoors or under cover. Some folks also have luck completely removing the husks and hanging mesh bags of ears. Especially if you live in a humid climate, be sure to move the bags around every few days and check for signs of mold or mildew where the ears of corn touch eachother.

Popcorn needs to dry until it reaches an ideal moisture content of between 13 and 14%. This level of moisture is key to getting good “pops.” While your popcorn is hanging to dry test a few kernels once or twice a week. When they pop well you can move your popcorn to storage.

If you just can’t wait to eat a bit you can speed up the process with a dehydrator. Shell a few ears and lay the kernels on a dehydrator tray. Dehydrate between 120-130°F, checking few hours until it’s popping well.


To save space, shell your popcorn and place it in airtight containers. It will keep for several years.

If stored popcorn won’t pop it may have become too dry. Don’t worry though, you can add moisture to make it pop again. Fill a quart jar with popcorn and 1 tablespoon of water. Shake occasionally until all the water is absorbed. Check to see if it will pop every 3 to 4 days and keep adding water 1 tablespoon at a time until it pops well.


Making popcorn on a stovetop is surprisingly easy. Begin by heating a large, thick-bottomed saucepan or dutch oven with lid with about 3 Tbs of olive oil in it over medium heat. Once hot, the oil should cover the bottom of the pan. Then add 3 kernels to the pan and place the lid on.

When all the kernels have popped, add 1/3 cup of kernels and place the lid back on. Ocassionally slide or shake the pan back and forth redistributing the popcorn. When the popping slows to a few seconds between pops remove your pan from the heat and enjoy!

Other Uses

Popcorn also makes wonderful cornmeal or grits. Check out our article about proccessing flour corn for tips. You can also make popcorn pie!

Additionally popcorn can be eaten like sweet corn in what’s called the “milk stage.” When the husks are still green but the silks have begun to brown check an ear or two to see how the kernels look. For colored popcorns it’s ready just before it takes on darker colors. You can also check by tasting it or by piercing a kernel with a fingernail. If white liquid comes out it’s ready for fresh eating.