Our Guide to Choosing the Best Corn

July 23, 2014

Before you break out the corn picks, a few tips on how to choose the best-tasting corn on the cob.

First, it should be cold, which means it's been iced or chilled after harvest, unless of course, you are picking it your self. Looking at the outside of an ear, there should be dry brownish silk should extend out the top (yellowish silk marks an immature ear) and the husks should be green and crisp. Pulling back the husk to look at the inside, the ears with a few immature kernels at the tip will be sweeter and more tender than if the tip kernels have grown to full size. A quick thumb prick should produce a burst of milky juice. Myth: white corn is sweeter than yellow corn or vice-a-versa, sweetness is determined by variety, weather, harvesting, and storage conditions. 

Did you know that only about 10% of the corn grown in the United States is of the sweet eating variety? The other 90 % is field corn, most of which goes to cattle feed or the making of corn syrup and other products. Sweet corn is actually field corn that is graced with a recessive gene, which thankfully, makes it edible (at least to us non-ruminants). The Super Sweet variety, which is the dominant hybrid grown in the US, has a high sugar to starch ratio, and a shelf life of up to 10-12 days, which makes them popular with growers as well as grocers. Sugar levels of super sweet varieties range from 22 to 40 percent, compared to 5 to 11 percent in standard sweet corn. The only complaint with some of these hybirds, is that the complex sugars that make them so sweet, are not water soluable, thus they lack the creaminess of the old fashioned sweet corn. Roadside corn stands are likely to offer a different and juicier variety than the super sweets found in grocery stores.