Fresh corn etiquette
Corn is not yet in season here in New England but the stores have started to receive some pretty good looking Florida corn. I walked past a big display at Whole Foods and so so many people were practically husking the whole cob and then tossing aside-obviously searching for the "perfect" cob as none of the discarded showed any sign of blemish.
Why do people insist on doing this?? I rarely buy non- native corn preferring to wait for the fresh picked at a few local stores and/or farmers market in my area. But even so when I buy any corn I judge the ears by the feel and the weight. Sure I occasionally get a "bad" ear but they are few and far between. I also find that corn stays sweeter longer if you wait to husk it right before cooking (now that may just be my perception, I have no proof that it is true)
So why all this waste?? Nobody buys the tossed aside ears. Why do people insist on doing this and why is it acceptable? Stores don't allow us to cut open melons or avocados so why corn?
I have noticed this, too. Not sure why people do it. But some stores actully encourage it.
The Shaws near me ( where I would not even venture to buy an onion or a potato, no less corn!) puts a large trash barrel next to the corn. Would be interesting if someone in the grocery industry replies.
It is very bad etiquette. Unless you are going to cook the corn immediately, husking can ruin it (and who's gonna eat the superduper sweet kinds of corn it doesn't hurt?) Look at the silks, feel the ear up to size up the size of the grains, buy an extra ear if you are that worried.... Do not open: you break it you buy it.
I am hoping our surfeit of rain in eastern Massachusetts (19-28 inches over the past month!) will subside. Nothing worse that corn from a wet summer: big and bland. Moderate dryness helps to better concentrate the flavors in smaller, toothier kernels.
I agree that it is unecessary and even counter-productive to husk the corn, and I never husk mine before cooking (besides, what if I decide to grill it at the last minute?), but I disagree that it is bad etiquette, since the large grocery stores definitely encourage it, by putting a bin next to the corn for the husks. By doing so, they have made it acceptable behavior!
Every large grocery chain in my area does it, and as long as they do, folks are going to think that husking in the store is the proper procedure. Indeed, I've noticed that some folks don't even look at the corn after they husk it, so there may even be those that assume that the bin is just an extra service of the store as a way for them to avoid taking home extra 'garbage' or whatever....
The stores could take the opportunity to educate folks by taking away the bin and putting up a big sign, "How to judge our corn...." with explanation, but they probably wouldn't. Perhaps they figure it wouldn't do any good, and perhaps the bin is there because they got tired of corn husks everywhere...
Supermarkets do this because (1) their corn is generally terrible anyway (either stale or of the superdupersweet variety that corn lovers tend to avoid), (2) their customers don't realize this, and (3) their customers appreciate the opportunity to keep the mess at the store. In that situation, no, it's not an etiquette violation SO LONG as you take each ear you husk and don't throw it back on the pile.
But at a farmstand* or farmer's market, the only thing you should be discarding are broken-off stems from ears and some connected husk.
* Exception for corn country where the corn is so fresh and the time to cooking is so immediate that the farmer's don't mind if you do it or even do it for you. For me, I like to cook the corn in the husk for more flavor.
My local Cosentino's & Lunardi's markets have big signs that say "NO HUSKING ALLOWED". There always seems to be an employee in the produce department, so I bet you'd be politely told not to, if you tried =) I never noticed a bin (for husking) at Safeway or Albertsons, but maybe I haven't looked closely enough.
Either I'm not clear on your description, or shoppers in your area are unclear on the process of selecting corn. In Maine and Maryland, where I have bought the best ear corn, we peel back just enough of the husk (an inch or so) to see if there is smut, caterpillars, or badly deformed kernels. Good ears are smut- and bug-free, and the kernels should be relatively consistent in size all the way to the tip of the ear. The first inch or so should answer.
If you are not worried about smut or bugs, just gently press the tip of the corn to see if the kernels are plump. Sometimes, if the smut is bad enough, you will see it in the silk and feel a sponginess in the husk.
Peeling the shucks this way still leaves the ear covered and preserved until you get home to cook it later that evening.