Famously cultivated by Native Americans and brought back to Europe from the New World, corn’s appeal lies in its sweetness—some varieties have nearly 40 percent sugar—and its versatility. Not only is it cooked and eaten like a vegetable, but it’s also widely used, especially in the U.S., in a variety of other forms: oil, syrup, flour, meal, starch, and as mash in liquor production. We associate fresh corn with the height of summer, as it peaks from May to September; it’s wonderful in salads like succotash, breads and other baked goods, or simply grilled and eaten with a smear of butter and a sprinkle of salt. The two most popular varieties are yellow, which tends to have larger, fuller-flavored kernels, and white, which is smaller and sweeter.
HOW TO BUY
Buy corn that’s as fresh as possible; as soon as it’s been picked the sugars begin converting to starch, which lessens its sweetness. Choose ears with plump kernels and bright, tightly closed husks.
HOW TO STORE
Cook and serve corn the day you buy it if possible; you can also refrigerate it for a day or two if necessary. Do not remove husks until you’re ready to cook.
HOW TO PREPARE
Remove the husks and silks; if the silks are difficult to remove, rub the ears with a paper towel or a small vegetable brush. Alternatively, you can microwave unhusked ears for 30–60 seconds; the silks should slide off more easily.