When the sweet corn starts coming in, that's when you know summer has well and truly arrived. Those ears are so fresh and sweet that you can taste the sunshine in each bite. Add a pat of butter, and there's no resisting. How do you like your sweet corn?
Sweet corn is one of those vegetables that's really best when it's in season, which is generally July through late-September. Off-season corn tends to taste starchy and mealy instead of sweet and ripe.
Pick ears of corn the look really fresh. The leaves around the cob should be pale green and slightly damp, never dried out. The tassel should look silky and feel soft. If you peel back just enough of the husk to see the kernels, those kernels should look plump and glossy. Don't worry about a stray worm or two, though corn that has clearly been chewed should be avoided.
You can theoretically store corn for several days refrigerated in the husk, but they will gradually lose their sweetness and begin to taste starchy even when cooked. Corn connoisseurs will tell you that sweet corn should be eaten the day its picked, preferably within hours, while the corn is at its sugary peak. With any corn you can't eat right away, it's best to slice off the kernels and freeze them for using in soups or salads.
To husk corn, grab all the tassels and a few of the outer leaves with one hand and pull firmly downward. This will open the corn like a zipper and take most of the persnickety corn silks with it. From there, peel back the rest of the leaves and pinch away any remaining silks. If boiling or steaming, snap the leaves off. If grilling, leave the leaves attached; you can rub the kernels with butter or herbs before cooking and then fold the leaves back over the cob.
And yes, you can certainly eat your sweet corn raw
! This is where ultra-fresh corn is really what you want. I like raw corn best when the kernels are cut from the cob and tossed into a salad, though eating them by the spoonful isn't a bad way to go.
Ready for some summer corn action? Here are our favorite recipes:
• Corn on the Cob: Three Ways to Cook Sweet Corn
• 5 Ways to Liven Up Corn on the Cob
• How to Make Elote - Roasted Sweet Corn
• Corn and Zucchini Salad with Chives
• Potatoes, Green Beans, and Corn with Brown Butter Lemon Dressing
• Empanadas with Corn
• Caramelized Corn with Tomatoes and Bacon
What are your favorite recipes with summer sweet corn?
Related: An Unavoidable Surprise in Organic Corn: Worms!