Whether you grill it or boil it, the simplicity, and delicious taste of corn on the cob seems to encourage summer and early fall dinner parties. The tall stalks consist of strong stems to support many joints of large ears (husks) growing kernels – hence the cob. Being the most popular, sweet corn is the variety you’ll find at our farm market.
Although it is a cereal plant from the grain family, most of us consider corn a vegetable since it is eaten fresh. When harvested at the proper ripeness, the kernels of sweet corn are tender and have a sweet, juicy taste. The three types of sweet corn that are readily available are:
- white corn (white kernels)
- yellow corn (yellow kernels)
- hybrid of both white and yellow (often referred to as peaches and cream or butter and sugar corn).
Our local sweet corn season begins about July 1st with Chilliwack Supersweet and Ralph’s own supersweet crop takes over in late summer. Growing may continue until the first frost (late September or early October).
The husks should have good green colouring with pale coloured silk. To check the freshness, pull the top of the husk away from the ear and pierce a kernel with your fingernail. If the kernel releases a slightly cloudy juice it is typically a fresh batch. Be assured that Ralph’s takes care to keep our corn displays at moderate temperatures.
Avoid the following characteristics that indicate lack of freshness and sweet taste:
- kernels that are dented or discoloured
- dried or dark coloured silk or discoloured husks
- corn exposed to high temperatures, triggering a rapid conversion of sugar to starch.
Room temperature storage will lose sweetness much faster. Refrigerate corn, in the husk, as soon as you arrive home to maintain the sweet flavour. If corn has been husked, place it in a plastic bag prior to refrigeration. It is best to eat it as soon as possible.
Freezing in plastic bags can take place in two methods, lasting for 6 months to a year:
- kernels cut off the cob
- entire cobs with some outer leaves removed.
removal of the husk & silk
|Peel back the husk. Completely remove it if boiling. However, many grilling techniques require the husk to remain attached.|
|Remove the silk with a vegetable brush or a damp towel (Move the towel down the cob, allowing the silk to stick to the towel):|
|Break or cut off any remaining corn stalk, unless your family prefers a natural handle. The corn is now ready to cook.|
|Cooking corn on the Cob – Boiling and Grilling methods|
This method works well when cooking for large groups. Large, deep pots or your Christmas dinner roasting pan will hold lots of cobs.
Place shucked corn into preferred container and cover with cold water.
|Add a tablespoon of sugar to keep corn sweet and tender. Whatever you do, restrain yourself from adding salt to the water, since it will cause the corn to toughen.|
|Cook corn over high heat and when water comes to a rapid boil, the corn is tender and done (30 seconds to 3 minutes). Do not overcook, since it will loose its sweet flavour and toughen the kernels.|
Gently fold back husk, but don’t remove. Remove the silk (see suggestions above in ‘Shucking’ instructions).
|Place husk in original positioning. Secure with kitchen twine, if optional seasoning method is not used (see below).|
|Soak the corn in cold water for 1 to 3 hours before placing on the grill. This moisture will allow steam, making the corn a juicier treat!|
|Optional Seasoning: Dab kernels dry. Mix 6 tablespoons of softened butter with desired seasoning. Suggestion: 1 clove of garlic (minced) and 1 to 2 tablespoons of minced parsley. Combine with butter. Blend mixture until smooth and brush lightly on each cob.|
Fold the husks back down and tie or twist the ends.
|Place on grill for approximately 10 to 15 minutes, turning frequently throughout cooking time.|
|Corn is done when it starts to steam. Relax about the charred husks, since the kernels will be sweet and tender with a distinct roasted flavour.|
The possibilities are endless! Fresh corn kernels may be used as an ingredient in soups, stews, casseroles, puddings, relishes, and breads. Here’s a few ways to prepare corn on the cob:
Boil~ bring a large pot (even a long roasting pan works well) of water to boil. To enhance the flavour, try adding a few loose husks from the inside, silk area or a teaspoon of sugar. With husks and silks removed, the water will have a better chance to continue boiling if only a few ears are added at a time. Cooking time:
- fresh young corn ~ 30 seconds—just long enough to heat the corn through
- more mature corn ~ up to three minutes.
Steam ~ Shuck the husk & silk, place on a steaming rack that is over about 1 inch (2.5cm) of water. Bring to a boil, cover, and steam for about 10 minutes.
Grill ~ a summertime favourite. See grilling method above for a few tasty alternatives.
Corn husks are used primarily in making tamales, but they are also used to wrap other foods (i.e. Latin)for steaming. To do so, soak husks in very hot water for about 30 seconds, then drain, pat dry, and use according to the recipe.
- Hold the salt! Adding salt to boiling water will toughen the corn. Instead, add a little sugar to the water for a boosted sweet flavour.
- Approximately 1 pound of kernels is found in two to three medium ears of corn, depending on ear size. Two medium ears are equivalent to about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of kernels.
Corn is worthy of being considered a healthy choice, since it is a good source of many nutrients including thiamin (vitamin B1), pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), folate, dietary fiber, vitamin C, phosphorous, manganese, vitamin A, manganese, and potassium. It, also, contains protein, but not as much as rice or wheat. Primarily a carbohydrate, it does have some fibre and a little iron. It is low in fat and calories and is said to have antiviral and anticancer properties.
Corn (sweet, yellow, raw), 1 ear, medium (6 3/4-7 1/2 inches [17.1-19cm] long); 90g
Total Fat: 1g
- Corn was first grown in large quantities by the mid-1850’s. That corn was a descendant of the first known variety, Papoon, introduced to early Americans by the Iroquois Nation in 1779. Nevertheless, corn, or maize, has been around for centuries. As a dietary staple for the Incan, Mayan, and Aztec civilizations, its appearance proabably bore little resemblance to the corn cobs we are accustomed to today.
- The cob of corn we eat is actually the ear or branch of a corn plant.
- Corn may be used as a grain or vegetable. Five common varieties are dent, flint, flour, popcorn, and sweet.
- Traditional kitchen advice required putting the water on to boil before going out to pick the corn, as its natural sugars begin converting to starch as soon as the ears are plucked from their stalks. If you’re cooking corn from the garden, this is still good advice. However, thanks to the newer hybrid discoveries, most of the corn we buy today will stay fresh and sweet for days when stored in the refrigerator.
- Plant breeding advancements have produced the popular “supersweet” hybrids – two to three times sweeter at harvest and each kernel’s transition from sugars to starch is delayed as well.
- ‘Sugar enhanced’ early varieties of corn take about 70 days to mature, germinate in colder soil, and have a shorter growing time. In great contrast, ‘Supersweet’ usually takes 85 to 90 days, depending on the variety, needs both warm soil and weather to do well, and takes much longer to grow.