There’s an old saying that corn should be, “as high as an elephant’s eye” when you harvest it. With elephants in short supply in the Wigrich Appellation, we at Rogue Farms use more traditional ways of determining when our crop of Wigrich Corn is ready to be picked, shucked and shelled.
The answer? Any day now.
Our four acre field of Wigrich Corn is at least seven feet tall and towers over everyone who dares walk through it. But corn, like other grains, grows to full height before it produces ears and kernels. Tall corn doesn’t mean it’s ready to harvest, it just means we’re getting closer.
This is what we’re looking for. Nice sized ears with healthy looking kernels. This is our corn in the milk stage, when it’s soft, sweet and little bit crunchy. If we were in the business of selling fresh corn we’d harvest it now.
But milky corn quickly goes bad in storage and is too moist to malt. Since we’re also maltsters and mashers, we wait a little bit longer.
We’ll give our Wigrich Corn another couple of weeks to dry on the stalks, until moisture levels drop from 70% to 30%. We’ll know we’re getting close when we see small dents, or dimples, form on the kernels. That tell us the sugars inside the kernels are drying out, getting nice and hard and perfect for malting. Then, and only then, do we harvest.
We’ll pick the ears by hand. It’s hard work to do it that way, but we’d rather see it done right than done fast. Afterwards we’ll shuck ’em, shell ’em and drive the newly harvested kernels to the Farmstead Malt House at our farm in Tygh Valley. Our team of maltsters has been experimenting with test batches of corn floor malt and micro-malt all summer. They can’t wait to get their hands on a real crop.
So what are our plans for Wigrich Corn after we’re done picking, shucking, shelling, floor malting and micro-malting? Bourbon is one possibility. Corn whiskey is another, and so is corn beer. It all depends on what Rogue Brewmaster John Maier is inspired to create when he’s had a chance to taste, sniff and touch our first ever batch of Rogue Corn Malt.
Sometimes we know exactly what we’re going to brew and mash with a crop when we plant it. Sometimes we don’t. But not always having the answer ahead of time is what makes the ground to glass journey so fascinating and fun. Whatever John decides to do with our Wigrich Sweet Corn we know it will be unique, interesting and Revolutionary.
As we head into the final days of the harvest season at Rogue Farms, please pay us a visit and see how we grow beer, spirits, ciders and sodas!