There’s nothing quite like fresh summer fruits and veggies. Crisp watermelon, juicy peaches, tangy tomatoes, and of course, fresh sweet corn with kernels that “POP” in your mouth!
Sweet corn was developed right here in North America, when a natural genetic mutation in field corn converted the starches in corn to sugars. Native Americans in the Pennsylvania area grew several varieties of sweet corn, and the Iroquois passed it along to colonists in the late 1700s. Sweet corn has been a popular summer treat ever since.
Two cultivars that were developed in the 1800s are still popular today – “Country Gentleman” and “Stowel’s Evergreen.” You can find seeds for those online, and enjoy the same sweet corn that your great-great-great grandparents may have enjoyed!
Since then, many more varieties of sweet corn have been developed, using hybridization techniques to produce corn that is sweeter, more productive, and more disease resistant than previous strains. Today there are over 100 varieties of sweet corn, many with tasty-sounding names like “Bodacious,” “Honey and Cream” and “Honeytreat.”
Sweet corn is grown on over 25,000 farms in every state in the U.S., usually for local consumption. Sweet corn has a short shelf-life and either needs to be eaten quickly, or canned or frozen to preserve its freshness. The majority of sweet corn, over 70%, is for the fresh market. California, Florida and Georgia are the largest producers for the fresh market, while Minnesota, Washington and Wisconsin produce the most sweet corn for processing. Combined, over 2.6 million tons of sweet corn is produced in the United States.
Sweet corn is prepared and eaten in a bajillion different ways. Fresh off the stalk, lightly boiled, steamed, creamed, grilled, in breads, salads, soups, and even in ice cream! In other parts of the world, sweet corn is served on pizza (Japan), with beans (Latin America), or soaked with milk (Indonesia). If sweet corn is picked young, it is canned as baby corn. If sweet corn kernels are dried and cooked in oil, they expand and turn into corn nuts instead of popping.
My favorite way is to boil fresh ears for just a few minutes to warm it up, then slick on some butter and salt! My mom’s favorite way to eat corn on the cob is straight out of the garden – just tear the ear off the stalk, then get rid of the silk and husk, and eat it right there, standing in the field!
What’s your favorite way to prepare sweet corn? Let us know!