Corn is an icon of American culture. Not only does it represent Native American traditions and serve as a symbol of both summertime BBQ fun and a night out at the movies, but corn, in the form of corn syrup, is also an added ingredient in many other foods that we consume in our daily diets.
Although we often associate corn with the color yellow, it actually comes in host of different varieties featuring an array of different colors, such as red, pink, black, and blue. Corn grows in "ears," each of which is covered in rows of kernels that are then protected by the silk-like threads called "corn silk" and encased in a husk.
Selecting and Buying
Look for corn whose husks are fresh and green and not dried out. They should envelope the ear and not fit too loosely around it. To examine the kernels, pull back part of the husk. The kernels should be plump and tightly arranged in rows. You can test for the juiciness of the corn by taking your fingernail and pressing on a kernel. Corn that is fresh will exude a white milky substance.
f you're watching your weight or your blood sugar levels, choose blue corn chips and tortillas. Corn comes in a rainbow of colors, including violet, blue, and black. Darker varieties contain greater quantities of antioxidant pigments called anthocyanins. Blue corn tortillas contain about 20% more protein and 8% less starch giving them a lower glycemic index than the more common version made with white corn; plus blue corn tortillas have a softer texture and sweeter flavor than those made with white corn, reports Dr. Luis Bello-Perez in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture.
2. Sowing & Planting : For the best results, corn must be planted in a rectangle of at least 4 rows opposed to a singular row. This will not only insure proper pollination, but provide some wind protection to the crop. Sow the seeds directly into the ground opposed to starting them in trays or pots as corn can be difficult to transplant. Sow two seeds together approximately one inch deep every 18 inches in the row and remove the weaker of each two seedlings, leaving 18 inches between the remaining plants.
3. Looking After the Plants : Protect your seedlings with netting if birds are a nuisance and keep down the weeds but do not hoe close to the plants. If roots appear at the base of the plant's stem, mound dirt or compost over them. These protruding roots, which are referred to as "tillers", should not be removed. If the plants are tall and little protection is available, it may be wise to stake each plant for extra support. Be sure to provide plenty of water for the plants in hot water, which is especially necessary when they flower. Make it a habit to tap the tassles at the top of each stem regularly as this will aid in germination. Feed the plants with a good liquid fertilizer source when the cobs begin to swell.
4. Harvesting : Each plant will produce several harvestable cobs. Test the cobs for ripeness when the silks (tassles) have turned a dark brown color by pulling back part of the sheath (husk) and squeeze a couple of the grains between the thumbnail and fingernail. If a watery liquid squirts out from the kernel, the ear is unripe. If the discharge is creamy, the ear is prime for harvesting, where as if the liquid is thick and somewhat solid, you have waited too long to harvest. Carefully twist the ripe ear from the plant's stem, being careful not to injure the plant. Harvest just before you intend to cook the corn as this crop is at its best if cooked within 10 minutes of harvest.
5. Storage : If storage is necessary, corn can stay fresh in your refrigerator for up to 3 days, but can also be frozen for the freezer in zip-lock freezer bags.
Preparation and Use
Corn can be cooked either with or without its husk in a variety of different ways. If using the wet heat methods of boiling or steaming, make sure not to add salt or overcook as the corn will tend to become hard and lose its flavor. Or, they can be broiled in the husk. If broiling, first soak the corn in the husk ahead.
Conserving and Storing
To enjoy corn's maximum flavor, purchase it on the day you are going to cook it since corn has a tendency to lose its flavor relatively rapidly. Store corn in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Do not remove its husk since this will protect its flavor. To enjoy its optimal sweetness, corn should be eaten as soon as possible.
Fresh corn freezes well if placed in heavy-duty freezer bags. To prepare whole ears for freezing, blanch them first for seven to eleven minutes depending upon their size (larger ears take a longer time to blanch than smaller ones). If you just want to freeze the kernels, first blanch the ears for about five minutes and then cut the kernels off the cob at about three-quarters of their depths. Whole corn on the cob will keep for up to one year, while the kernels can be frozen for two to three months.