From farm to fork: Growing, selecting, & cooking sweet corn

By Brandie Piper

Published June 11, 2015 on

Sweet corn is a summertime staple, and it’s delicious no matter how it’s cooked. And sweet corn helps to contribute to a balanced meal. We’ve put together some tips about how to choose the best ear at your local grocery store or farmers’ market, as well as some popular cooking techniques. But first, we should probably explain the difference between field corn and sweet corn.

More than 99 percent of the corn you see while driving through the Midwest is field corn, which is different from sweet corn. Field corn is used for livestock feed, ethanol and ingredients in our food.

Field corn is usually pretty impressive to drive past, with stalks usually reaching 6-to-8-feet tall. Tractors (called combines) are specifically made to pick the corn, usually from July in the southern United States through November (and sometimes later) in the northern United States. Field corn is starchy with bright yellow kernels with small dents in them (most field corn is called No. 2 Yellow Dent). About 90 million acres of field corn are planted each year, mostly in the Midwest.

Sweet corn is typically a bit shorter, topping out at 4-to-5-feet tall. The kernels can be white, yellow or bi-color, and it’s hand-picked from April through August. The kernels are plumper, because the corn is picked at the peak of its maturity. Sweet corn is sweeter tasting than field corn, hence the name… [continue reading]

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