Nothing epitomizes summer in America like sweet corn. Originally from Central America, corn (or maize) is a member of the grass family. It’s an ancient crop; fossilized remains have been found in Mexico dating back 80,000 years. It was a dietary staple of Native Americans long before Columbus arrived; indeed, it’s widely held that the survival of this country’s early settlers depended on corn and the Native Americans who taught them how to grind the grain and cook with it.
Modern corn is one of the most widely grown crops in the world. There are numerous breeds of corn; the majority of the world’s crop is referred to as “field corn”; it’s picked at a more mature, starchy stage that’s not intended for human consumption. Sweet corn (what we call “corn on the cob”) is America’s favorite, with 2 varieties: white and yellow. Yellow corn has large, full-flavored kernels, while white corn is characterized by smaller, sweeter kernels. Recently, super-sweet hybrids have been bred to have more than twice the sugar content of regular varieties. Some of these new hybrids convert sugar to starch more slowly, so they no longer need to be eaten within hours of picking; they can remain sweet and juicy as much as a week after harvest.
Why choose organic corn?
- Choose organic corn to avoid GMOs and to help keep the residues of conventional agricultural pesticides and fertilizers out of your food. Organic produce is grown without toxic synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, using sustainable farming methods that protect the environment and help keep pesticides out of our soil, air, water and food supply. And to be organic, corn can't be grown from GMO seed. Organic food is the healthiest choice for people and the planet — and we think it tastes better, too!
How to select and store corn
- Sweet corn’s peak season is late May through September. For the freshest taste, always buy corn in its husks the day you intend to eat it, and leave it unshucked until just before using.
- Look for corn with fresh-looking, snug and undamaged green husks with glossy silk spilling out of the top of the ears; shiny, golden-brown silks indicate freshness. If you can, pull back the husk and check that the kernels are plump, shiny and moist, and that the rows are tightly spaced and extend from tip to stem end. Milky juice should spurt out of a kernel when pierced with a fingernail.
- If you must store your corn, refrigerate the ears in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer for just a day or two.
Tips for using corn
- Corn can be used any number of ways, although classic corn on the cob remains one of the most delicious preparations. Simply simmer the ears in plain, unsalted water (salt toughens the kernels) for no more than 5 minutes (or until you can smell the corny aroma), then drain and drizzle with melted butter.
- To prepare, pull back and tear off the husks. Rub off the silks with your hand, or use a soft, dry toothbrush or vegetable brush to remove strands lurking between the kernels.
- If a recipe calls for removing the kernels, cut off the tip and bottom of each ear. Hold the cob upright in a large bowl or on a rimmed baking sheet. Use a sharp knife to slice from the top downward, cutting off 3 or 4 rows of corn at a time, but not cutting too deeply into the cob itself. You want to leave about 1/4 of the base of the kernel attached to the cob. Rotate the ear and repeat, until all kernels have been removed. An ear of corn will yield about 1/2 cup of kernels.