Sweet corn season is here! And, once again, folks are gathering around the husking tables to exchange all kinds of intel: tips on how to pick out a good ear, techniques for cooking (or whether to cook it at all), the shelf life of sweet corn from the time that it’s picked, and of course a whole host of comparisons about white, yellow, and bicolor—which one is the sweetest, which one has the most flavor, and how do they stack up to the Mirai from seasons past?
Well, we’re here to set the record straight! Hopefully this article will dispel any myths, misinformation, and hearsay that may cause cornfusion.
What Happened to Mirai?
In the early 2000’s we started growing a variety of sweet corn called Mirai. Mirai was leaps and bounds ahead of its predecessors because, as an augmented supersweet*, it was both sweet and tender, unlike previous generations of sweet corn whose kernels tended to be harder. However, into the 2010’s, Mirai’s seeds failed to germinate for many growers, and seed distributors eventually stopped standing by it. These things happen with sweet corn varieties, as the average variety only lasts a decade or so before its successors arrive.
Of course, we’re sad to say goodbye to Mirai, but we’re happy to report that we’ve moved on to the next generation of augmented supersweets. We’re currently picking Eden (white), Rosie (bicolor), and Takeoff (yellow)—all very sweet and tender and highly recommended!
*Note: The term “augmented supersweet” may sound like a GMO creation, but it’s not! In fact, almost all genetically modified corn is field corn, used for fuel, processed foods, etc. While Bayer-Monsanto and Syngenta both have patents on GMO sweet corn seeds, very few farmers grow it. Instead, augmented supersweets have been hybridized, meaning they’re the product of crossbreeding, which happens in nature all the time.
Picking a Good Ear
Believe it or not, there is absolutely no relationship between the corn’s color and its sugar content! Again, all three of our current varieties (Eden, Rosie, and Takeoff) are augmented supersweets.
When you’re making your selection, go with larger ears with fully mature kernels. Some folks seek out smaller ears with smaller kernels, but, with our varieties, smaller kernels won’t have the flavor or the sweetness. We try to pick them when they’re big and ready.
Also, did you know that each strand of silk corresponds to a kernel on the ear? So, without peeking under the husk, you can determine whether an ear is full by looking at the silk coming out of the tip. Fuller silk = a fuller ear.
Freshly picked corn is always going to taste better. At Pete’s we hand-pick our corn every morning and bring it right down to the store. But, how long will it stay fresh? The answer may surprise you.
In the old days of sweet corn—standard varieties like Silver Queen, for example—the ears had a sugar content of about 12%. Within 12-24 hours after it was picked, 50% of its sugar would turn to starch.
Newer varieties, on the other hand, have a sugar content closer to 20%, and their sugar takes longer to convert to starch—about ten times longer. When stored properly, it takes 7-10 days before 50% of their sugar converts to starch.
To store properly, keep the ear in its husk and keep it in the refrigerator. To preserve it for more than a week, however, freezing is the way to go. You can leave it on the cob, but we wouldn’t recommend it. Freezing on the cob requires quite a bit of freezer space, but, worst of all, it may draw the flavor of the cob into the kernels. Not highly recommended unless you’re really missing the rituals of summertime eating in the cold months.
The best way to freeze it would be to blanch the ears, cut off the kernels, and store them in airtight freezer bags.
Now, this is a hotly debated topic, and rightly so. There are a zillion ways to prepare your sweet corn, and there are always new methods to try. Some of us are boilers; some are grillers. Some grill in the husk, while others grill in foil with added flavors (lime juice, pepper, etc.). Heck, some of us even microwave or just eat it raw.
Here are our trusted methods:
To boil: Put the ears in a pot of cold water and set the stove to high. When the water comes to a boil, the ears are ready.
To grill: Put the ears on the grill, still inside their husks and silk. Grill for about 15 minutes, turning over every few minutes, and then husk before eating.
Regardless of how you eat it, our ears are always open for new ideas! If you think you have the undisputed, absolute best method for preparing Pete’s sweet corn, do the world a flavor and post it in the comments!