SWEET CORN: TWO EARS PER PLANT
Nothing says summer like sweet corn, and each plant shows off two delicious ears when they are ripe for the picking. In the competition for the best corn in town, farmers take a few things into consideration: the variety, soil health, and post-harvest handling.
The hundreds of varieties of sweet corn are generally grouped into two categories:
Sugar Enhanced corns are those that have been naturally crossed with other corns until certain recessive genes are present. In this modification, the grower is looking to see about 25% more sugar in the kernels than traditional sweet corn varieties. These seeds also remain large and plump full of sugar, which helps the plant germinate and grow quickly. Sugar Enhanced varieties are common among Farmers’ Market growers as they are first to market and do have a good, sweet flavor with tender kernels. The seed is affordable and reliable. They also have great names, like
Then there are Super Sweets. These types are essentially made up of additional crosses of a Sugar Enhanced with another Sugar Enhanced to create a hybrid that has more kernels that express the Sugar-Enhanced gene. The sugar content is about 35% more than traditional sweet corns. The downfall of super sweets is that some (but not all) lack tenderness, the seeds are expensive, and they require warm soils and generally have less successful germination than Sugar Enhanced corns. A little finicky to say the least.
The major difference between Sugar Enhanced and Super Sweets is how long until they get “starchy.” A Sugar Enhanced corn gets starchy fairly quickly. The Super Sweets don’t convert sugar to starch as fast as Sugar Enhanced corns, and because they have more sugar to begin with, they tend to taste sweeter longer. We typically buy both Sugar Enhanced and Super Sweet, and our favorite is one of our late season Super Sweet varieties,
, but it isn’t available all season.
Harvesting corn at our farms happens fast and by hand, early in the morning when it’s still cool. It's important to get it all into refrigeration quickly because heat causes the sugars to convert faster. When we show up at the farms to pick up everything, we often need to wait for bit while they finish running the corn through a hydro-cooler --a sprinkler setup where the corn is rinsed in ice cold water to cool it quickly. Then it goes onto our trucks, is redistributed at our Warehouse for the different routes, and heads out on its way to you.