Your cart is Empty.
Close
Subtotal:
CHEFS In Season Featuring corn: Corn Recipes, Tips, Information and more from CHEFS Catalog.
Featured Corn Recipes
Sweet corn = Summer
How corn savvy are you? Do you know the difference between sweet corn and field corn? Do you know why some corn is blue and if rainbow corn is edible or not? And what about popcorn?

Let’s look at the many uses of this grain. According to 2012 statistics, more than 690 million tons were produced worldwide. If there’s that much being produced and used, it might be worthwhile to learn more about it.
About maize, a.k.a. corn
You may not have given much thought to the importance of corn in the diet of humans and animals. There’s plenty of talk about corn—good and bad—and you likely know it’s fed to livestock, converted to high-fructose corn syrup, and put in many foods consumed by humans. It’s also a fuel, particularly in the form of ethanol.

Maize is the technical term for what most of us call corn. The word maize derives from the Spanish form of an indigenous word—Taino—which is the word for the plant "maiz." In Southern Africa, maize is commonly called mielie (in Afrikaans) or "mealie," but for our purposes here, we’ll call it corn.

In North America, Australia, and New Zealand, the word corn was a shortened version of "Indian corn." If you’ve heard of "Indian corn," you’re probably envisioning the multicolored ears many of us hang as decoration in autumn. But indigenous Americans would use the word "maize." By the way, the appropriate term for those multicolored ears? "Flint corn."

The maize plant is prehistoric. Its earliest origin traces to Mesoamerica where indigenous people domesticated it. According to Wikipedia.com, the Tehuacan Valley of Mexico is the place where maize, or corn, was first cultivated. According to the WebMD website, corn developed from a wild grass called teosinte.

Around 2500 B.C., corn spread into what would become America, where it was embraced as a food source. By the late 15th and early 16th centuries, it made its way into the bags of early explorers and was transported to Europe. Since corn can be grown almost anywhere, it was readily adopted around the world. However, corn stalks have shallow roots, so crops can be wiped out by high winds or drought. Corn also needs nutrient-rich soil and most commercial growers rotate their crops each year or heavily amend the soil to do successive plantings.

In Native American communities, it is traditional to plant corn, beans, and squash in the same mounds. These three foods are called the "three sisters." "According to Three Sisters legends corn must grow in community with other crops rather than on its own—it needs the beneficial company and aid of its companions," reports ReneesGarden.com.

The Iroquois believe they are inseparable and only grow and thrive together. This method of planting provides optimum soil fertility and a healthy diet.
Varieties
The first varieties of corn grew ears that were only one-inch long and one per plant. Today’s varieties are giants by comparison. A stalk ranges from eight to 12 feet in height. Each stalk produces up to three ears and each ear is a minimum of seven inches in length.

Beginning in 1997, genetically modified (GM) corn has been grown in the United States and Canada. By 2010, 86 percent of the U.S. corn crop is GM varieties. This is a highly debated topic in the area of food safety and nutrition.

Even if you’ve never raised your own sweet corn, you can easily enjoy the fresh flavor of just-picked corn that’s still in the husk. With the proliferation of farmer’s markets and many grocers seeking local growers to supply customers with farm-fresh flavor, almost anyone has the opportunity to have in-season corn.

Most of the time, you don’t need to think about varieties. You’re likely aware that there is yellow and white corn, but beyond that, most people aren’t too concerned about the technicalities surrounding corn.

But, if you do want to put out a few rows of corn, the extension office at the University of Urbana, Illinois, assures us that corn is easy to grow in almost any garden. Just give it some space, plant a few rows, test your soil, and make sure it gets adequate sun. You’ll be picking your own corn before you know it.

There are many varieties of sweetcorn. For example, you might have heard of the term "supersweet." As the name implies, this variety of corn has a higher sugar content and the kernels a tougher texture. It is best used fresh and doesn’t freeze as well. Likewise, "standard sweet" varieties are also best if used in a short time from when the corn is picked.

Wikipedia lists some additional corn varieties:
  • Flour corn
  • Popcorn
  • Dent corn (a variety of maize or corn with a high soft starch content)
  • Flint corn
  • Sweet corn
  • Waxy corn (more glutinous than the other varieties)
  • Amylomaize (a unique cornstarch)
  • Pod corn (Also called Wild maize and believed to be the original strain of corn)
  • Striped maize.
Unique corn
Even beyond yellow and white, there are some unique varieties of corn you may not be aware of.

Baby corn
If you’ve ever seen the movie, Big, you’ll remember the classic scene with Tom Hanks, who has been transformed into a 14-year-old boy, nipping the kernels of corn from a baby corn ear.

Of course, this popular addition to Asian cuisine, is completely edible—cob and all. Baby corn comes from certain varieties that are bred to produce additional ears and are harvested early while the ears are still immature.
Blue corn
Want to add some pizzazz to your meals? Try blue corn. The shade of blue varies from powdery gray to almost black. It is sometimes known as "Hopi maize," for the Indian tribe that developed it and is used in their traditional dishes like piki bread.

Blue corn grows in the southwestern U.S., mostly in Arizona and New Mexico. It is a staple in New Mexican dishes and has a sweeter and nuttier taste than yellow or white corn, especially when used to make tortillas. Most parts of the country have blue corn chips on the shelves of their markets.

The Hopi people associate the six colors of corn with seasons. In the case of blue corn, it relates to the winter solstice sunset. The tribe also believes blue represents a long life.
Popcorn
Popcorn certainly needs no introduction. It is a beloved, popular snack, especially during summer festivals and events. Americans love their popcorn so much that they eat about 16.5 billion quarts of it each year—more than anyone else in the world.

But, do you know why it pops? Like amaranth grain, sorghum, quinoa, and millet, popcorn kernels have a dense starchy interior underneath a hard moisture-sealed hull. Common varieties are red, yellow, and white.
Flint corn
Flint corn used to be known as "Indian" corn and has been a staple food since before Columbus came to America. It is the best type of corn to make hominy.

Hominy is corn kernels that are dried and then treated with an alkali in a process called nixtamalization. Hominy is usually found canned.
Selection and storage
Anyone who grew up on a farm likely has memories of steamy mornings spent picking, shucking, cutting, and processing corn. The process starts early in the morning, because the corn is picked before the heat of the day drains out the flavor. It’s best to shuck your corn outside—it can be a messy process, even though it’s also fun.

If you remember nothing else about sweet corn selection and storage, remember these two things:
  1. Buy it as fresh as possible
  2. Use it (or preserve it) as quickly as possible.


Once corn is picked, the sugar quickly turns to starch. That’s when flavor is lost. Gone is the sweetness and crispiness of the ears. If you absolutely have to store it, put the ears in a perforated plastic bag and refrigerate immediately. Remember to leave the husks on until you’re ready to use it.

For the best flavor, corn is harvested when "the ears are full and blunt at the tip." Husks should be tight and green. If you can, poke an end kernel and white milk will ooze out. Corn that isn’t ready has a watery liquid and over-the-hill corn will have tough, doughy kernels. The silks are an indicator too—they should be brown and dry on the end. You can also give the ear a gentle squeeze to feel if the kernels are closely spaced, firm, and round.
Storage quick tips
  • Don’t shuck your ears until ready to use. Leave the husks on.
  • Place ears in a perforated bag.
  • Refrigerate.
  • Use within 24 hours to three days.

While processing corn can be a lot of work, it’s worth it when later in the year a bowl of sweet corn transforms a meal from blah to summer fresh.
Nutrition
It’s important to note that corn is a grain, not a vegetable. While it is served as a side dish, it can confuse people as to its actual make-up.

WebMD.com says that corn is nutritious, providing fiber, which aids in digestion, plus folate, thiamin, phosphorus, vitamin C, and magnesium (about 10 percent of the daily value for each). The extension office at the University of Urbana, Illinois, also points out corn’s high ratings in niacin. Fiber aids digestion and folate is shown to prevent neural-tube birth defects. It also helps reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.

An ear of yellow corn has the following counts:
  • Calories: 83.16
  • Protein: 2.56 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 19.3 grams
  • Dietary Fiber: 2.15 grams
  • Potassium: 191.73 mg
  • Vitamin A: 167 IU
  • Niacin: 1.24 mg
  • Folate: 35.73 mcg

If you’re wondering whether blue corn is healthier than yellow or white, it does contain 20 percent more protein.
Preparation and cooking tips
Corn on the cob three ways
For summer fun, boil some ears of corn.

Start your pot boiling while you husk the corn. You can use a large Dutch oven, stockpot, or a deep-sided, flat pan. Fill your pan of choice with enough water so it will completely cover the ears.

Pull off husks and silks and snap off the end of the cob if too long. Dissolve a tablespoon of salt into the boiling water and add your corn. Don’t overcrowd the pan. Keep the water at a gentle boil and cook from three to eight minutes, depending on how fresh the corn is. When it’s a bright yellow, it’s done.

One note: The extension office at the University of Urbana, Illinois, advises against adding salt to the water, because it will toughen your corn. Try it both ways and decide for yourself.

To get rid of those pesky silks, try this tip: Rub the ear in a circular motion using a stiff vegetable brush, while holding the corn under cold running water.
Grilling your ears of corn
On a hot summer day, keep the heat out of your kitchen by roasting ears of corn on the grill. Peel back the husks, but don’t pull them off. Remove the silks. Brush the corn with olive oil (butter might burn). Pull the husks back up and tie the ends with twine or a strip of foil.

Over medium-hot heat, roast the ears until the outer husks are charred, about 15 minutes.
Microwaving works, too
For a fast cooking option, try the microwave. The kitchn.com recommends microwaving two ears at a time for about 4-6 minutes, with husks in place. Once cool enough to handle, strip off husks and silks. Husking is easier after microwaving, they suggest.

Another method I’ve used is to husk and de-silk the ears, wrap them in waxed paper, and microwave as above.
Processing corn
The website for Better Homes and Gardens gives advice on how to freeze corn: Shuck the corn, remove the silks, and cut off the stem with a sturdy knife. Rinse the ear.

When freezing corn, blanching it first will help retain its freshness. Blanching is simple. Boil a pot of water and fill a bowl with ice water. Place a few ears in the boiling water and cook four minutes. Remove with tongs and plunge into the ice water for a few seconds to stop the cooking. Set the ears in another bowl to drain fully while you continue to blanch the remainder of your batch. You’ll probably want to add more ice to the bowl of water as you work.

Once the corn is blanched and cooled, cut it off the cob. You can use a corn stripper or a sharp knife. If you choose a knife, place the end of the ear on a cutting board, put the knife at the tip of the ear and, with a gentle sawing motion, cut the corn from the cob. Don’t cut too deep or you’ll get into cob. You’ll be cutting about two-thirds of the kernel off.

As you cut, you can transfer corn into freezer boxes or bags. Pack enough so that your container or bag is at least three-quarters full. Be sure to remove all air and label with contents, amount, and date packaged. Corn can be frozen for eight to 10 months without losing flavor.
Measurements
Here are some measurements from Cookitsiimply.com and HowMuchIsIn.com:
  • 1 cup = 6.2 ounces (175 grams)
  • 3/4 cup of corn = 1 medium ear of fresh corn, cut from the cob
  • 1 cup of corn = about 1-1/4 medium ears
Production
According to The Grains Foundation, corn is the largest U.S. crop and is a big deal for numerous other countries, too. Statistics for the 2010 growing season show that U.S. production accounted for 39 percent of all corn produced in the world with 12.1 billion bushels (331 metric tons).

States accounting for 50 percent of U.S. production include Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, and Minnesota. Other Corn Belt states—Indiana, Wisconsin, South Dakota, Michigan, Missouri, Kansas, Ohio, and Kentucky—also count as major producers.

Outside of the U.S., the 2009-2010 major producers were:
  • China with 6.2 billion bushels
  • European Union producing 2.25 billion bushels
  • Brazil at 2.2 billion bushels
  • Argentina weighing in with 886 million bushels
  • Mexico at 799 million bushels
  • India with 657 million bushels.
Factoids
  • An ear of corn averages 600 to 800 kernels.
  • Corn production is two times that of any other crop in the U.S.
  • High fructose corn sweeteners are found in a large number of soft drinks and foods.
  • One bushel of corn provides enough corn syrup to sweeten 325 cans of pop, oil for two pounds of margarine, enough starch for a ton of paper, or 15 pounds of carbon dioxide to put the fizz in soft drinks.
  • Corn is raised on every continent except Antarctica.
  • In recent years, more than 10 billion bushels of corn was harvested in the U.S. Lay those corn ears tip to tip and they’d reach from Earth to Mars.
  • The word "maiz" means "sacred mother" or "giver of life."
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture says that each gallon of corn ethanol delivers up to 230 percent more energy than is used to produce it.
  • By producing 13.3 billion gallons of domestic ethanol, the U.S. imported 476 million fewer barrels of oil in 2013.
  • To grow one ear of corn, 25 gallons of water is required.
  • In Indiana, almost half of its tillable acres are planted to corn. Indiana ranks fourth in corn production.



Great Finds At The Market Now:
Acorn Squash, Apples, Artichokes, Arugula, Asian Pear, Barbados Cherries, Beets, Belgian Endive, Black Cowberries, Black Salsify, Blueberries, Broccoli, Broccoli Raabe (Rapini), Brussels Sprouts, Butter Lettuce, Buttercup Squash, Butternut Squash, Cabbage, Cactus Pear (Prickly Pear), Cape Gooseberries, Cardoon, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celeriac (Celery Root), Celery, Chayote Squash, Chicories, Chilies, Chinese Long Beans, Clams, Cod, Courgettes, Crab, Crab Apples, Cranberries, Curly Endive (Frisee), Date Plum, Delicata Squash, Diakon Radish, Duck, Edamame, Eggplant, Elk, Endive, Escarole, Feijoa, Fennel, Figs, Forage-Fattened Beef, Garlic, Ginger, Goose, Grapes, Green Beans, Green Onions (Scallions), Grouse, Guava, Guinea Fowl, Hearts Of Palm, Horseradish, Huckleberries, Jalapeno Peppers, Jerusalem Artichokes (Sunchokes), Jujube, Kale, Key Limes, Kohlrabi, Kumquats, Lamb, Leeks, Lemongrass, Lettuce, Limes, Mackerel, Moose, Mushrooms, Mussels, Okra, Ong Choy Spinach, Onions, Oyster, Pacific Saury, Parsley, Parsnips, Partridge, Passion Fruit, Pears, Peppers, Persimmons, Pheasant, Pineapple, Pomegranates, Pork, Potatoes, Prawns, Pumpkins, Quince, Rabbit, Radicchio, Radishes, Rosemary, Rutabagas, Sage, Salmon, Scallops, Shallots, Sharon Fruit, Shelling Beans, Spaghetti Squash, Spinach, Spote, Squid, Sugar Apple, Sunflower Kernels, Swede, Sweet Dumpling Squash, Sweet Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Swiss Chard Turnips, Thyme, Tomatillos, Turkey, Turnips, Venison, Walnuts, Watercress, Winter Squash, Wood Pigeon, Young Chickens, Zucchini

Want more In Seaon Articles? Visit the
In-Season Index
More In-Season Articles
Love to cook?
Receive CHEFS emails with exclusive offers, product news, recipes & more!

Get Email Exclusives
Close
Sign up for CHEFS emails!

Love to cook? Receive CHEFS's emails with free shipping, exclusive offers, product news, recipes & more!