An Unavoidable Surprise in Organic Corn: Worms!

Organic corn from the farmers market is reliably sweeter and tastier than conventionally-grown supermarket corn, but the one drawback is is peeling back the husk and finding a creepy, crawly worm. What are these worms and is the corn they are munching on still safe to eat?

The worms, called corn earworms, are one of the biggest headaches for organic corn growers because it is extremely difficult to prevent them using sustainable practices. Corn earworms are the larval form of an adult moth, which lays a single egg in the green silk of a corn stalk. The eggs hatches and the worm feeds on the silk of the corn for about two weeks, eventually ending up in our market baskets.

Finding a corn earworm while shucking an ear of corn is a nasty surprise, but the corn itself is fine to eat. Just discard the worm and cut off the affected section of the ear before using it. When shopping for organic corn, I try to peek under the silk to make sure there isn't too much earworm damage. Although it isn't hazardous, too much damage means you are paying for the earworm's meal rather than your own!

Do you have any tips for avoiding earworms when shopping for organic corn?

Related: Grasshopper Tacos: Good Eats Or Too Many Feets?

(Originally published July 2011)

(Image: Flickr member NeoGaboX licensed under Creative Commons)