The 'Sweetness' of Sweetcorn
Sweet corn can be traced back to the 19th century when a gene of field corn mutated. The mutated gene caused the corn to taste sweet rather than starchy. Sweet corn is shorter, matures faster, and its kernels have a higher sugar content than field corn. Field corn is harvested in the fall, after the plant dies and the seeds are dry and hard and is used for livestock feed, ethanol, corn meal, corn starch, corn syrup and more.
Farmers in the U.S. grow three main types of sweet corn; standard, supersweet and sugar-enhanced. Standard sweet corn varieties possess the traditional sweet corn flavor and texture. It tastes the sweetest on the day it’s harvested. Supersweet corn contains up to twice the amount of sugar as standard varieties and can be harvested and stored over a longer time period. Sugar-enhanced sweet corn’s sugar content is between those of standard and supersweet varieties and is tender and easy to chew. If you’re interested in knowing what type of sweet corn is sold at a farm or farmers’ market, don’t be afraid to ask the farmer.
To select sweet corn at a farm or farmers’ market, check for plump ears with silks at the end that are brown and starting to dry and husks that are bright green and supple. Skinny ears with extra pointy ends and white silks are immature. Avoid buying ears with completely dry silks and husks that are pale green, brownish and dry-looking. This indicates over-mature or not freshly picked corn.
To enjoy locally grown sweet corn this summer, take a trip to your local farm or farmers’ market. Get it while it lasts – it’s available now through the beginning of September.