Fall Gardening – Cornstalks After Harvest And Corn On Your Plate

By Bonnie Grant | October 27, 2020
by Bonnie Grant
October 27, 2020

When I think of fall, corn comes to mind. Cornstalks are often used in the autumn as décor on the front porch stoop or for harvest parties. Their presence evokes fall even though the actual corn on the cob is long gone. Once they are harvested, the fields are turned into mazes for harvest time fun. While not actually a fall harvest item, leftover cornstalk arrangements provide autumn ambiance in many settings.

The Autumn Harvest Corn is Abundant

Where I live the corn is coming towards the end of summer. The stalks are rising up to the sun and, in some cases, have begun to tassel. This signals the beginning of corn on the cob, a summertime BBQ staple. The golden ears, filled with juicy, succulent sweetness, are a proud feature in corn recipes from salads to side dishes, and even desserts.

Driving the back roads, the corn stalks are an inescapable delight. Their statuesque form creates an architectural discrepancy of both chaos and order. They are a shelter to the numerous animals and birds that litter the region. They provide nesting material and food for copious critters. Protecting them from the sundry snackers takes more than a scarecrow, but some loss must be expected. The cornstalks rustle in the wind with the promise of hefty ears that will go to grocery stores and supermarkets – and kitchen tables.

My own corn is doing quite nicely. It hasn’t reached stately proportions and, yet, is already beginning to tassel, a sign that corn on the cob is forming soon. Our solution to a scarecrow consists of metallic fluttering strands that catch the light and alarm the marauding birds. I hear old CDs also work well. I am looking forward to making corn recipes. I’m not one who enjoys corn on the cob, as the greasy mess on my face is not appealing. Instead, I will grill the ears and cut the toasted niblets off the cob to use in many dishes or freeze.

Once the corn harvest is over, the stalks stand solitary and barren. They dry in the sun until the leaves are a pale golden brown. This process is necessary if I want to use them for autumn cornstalk décor, which I do. These dried plants are a sad reminder that summer is over and wintry conditions on the horizon. And yet, they are also a signal of abundant harvest. Additionally, they are a sign of family holidays coming up. Thanksgiving wouldn’t be complete without grandma’s corn pudding. Christmas will likely feature creamed corn or a corn casserole.

Once the stalks are dry, they will adorn the front stoop with pumpkins, hard shelled squash, decorative gourds, and chrysanthemums in fall hues. The effect is lively and an homage to the season of plenty which has passed. So, corn reminds me of fall. The fresh corn on the cob will be in our bellies, but the plant that created that sweet summer taste will have its final say as adornment around our front door throughout autumn.

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