Sweet corn is a juicy, gem like vegetable (botanically a fruit!). Corn was first domesticated by native peoples in southern Mexico about 10,000 years ago. Sweet corn is sweeter then field or other types of corn due to a mutation that increased the sugar content of each kernel. This mutation likely appeared about 1,000 years ago. As soon as sweet corn is harvested, the natural sugars in the kernels begin to convert to starch, which causes the sweetness of the corn to decline. The best flavor is experienced within the first 3 days after harvest.
Sweet corn is a good source of vitamin A, C, thiamine, potassium, and fiber. Due to its higher content of carbohydrates and calories, sweet corn is sometimes thought of as a grain, like other varieties of corn.
Buying & Storing
Each individual cob of sweet corn is called an “ear” of corn. When buying sweet corn, choose ears that are full of kernels with no missing rows. The thin threads or silks that come from the top of the ears should be browning and may be drying. The tips of the ears should be full. The tender kernels should be large enough to be compact on the cob with no spaces between rows and each kernel should be milky and well developed.
Many recipes call for chucked corn. Shuck corn by peeling away the outer leaves until you only have one thin layer of inner leaves remaining around the ear of corn. Peel back the remaining leaves at the tip of the cob, just until you can see the top few rows of kernels. Grasp the tops of the leaves and the tassel together in one hand. Grip the bottom of the ear of corn with your opposite hand and pull down in one firm tug, then snap them off at the base of the ear .Run your fingers over the cob and pick away any remaining silks.
Store unhusked, or ears of corn that have not been shucked, loose in the refrigerator. Don’t allow the ears to dry out, but do allow air flow to prevent mold. For best flavor, use corn within 2-3 days. Keep husked corn refrigerated, in plastic bags, and use within two days. For long-term storage, sweet corn can be frozen. Drop corn in boiling water for 6 minutes. Remove from the water and rinse under cold water or put in an ice bath to stop cooking. Once cool, use a knife to remove kernels. Pack into containers or bags, label and freeze for up to 1 year.
Raw – Very fresh sweet corn is refreshing, sweet, and tender eaten straight off the cob. Carefully remove kernels with a sharp knife to add cold to salads, salsa, cornbread, relish, soups, guacamole, tacos, or even ice cream!
Microwave – Place corn, still in husk, into the microwave and cook on highest setting for 3-4 minutes. Carefully remove hot corn, slice off bottom stalk, and remove husk to eat.
Boil – Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add shucked corn and return to boil. Turn off heat, cover and let sit for 5-10 minutes, or until ready to serve. Serve with butter and salt.
Grill – Heat grill to high. Cut off silk from top. Peel off all but one of the layers of husk and cut off bottom stalk of each cob. Place directly onto hot grill. Cook for 5 minutes, then turn and cook another 5 minutes. Let corn sit on a serving plate for a few minutes before husking and serving. Delicious spread with mayonnaise, cotija cheese, chili powder, and lime.