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Fresh corn - do you check it out before you take it home?

I am always amazed at how many people buy fresh ears of corn and never bother to pull back the husk and check out the kernels. I watched a woman today at Whole Foods just take 4 ears off the pile and put them into the plastic bag. Is this the norm here in NYC?

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    1. I would never ever pull back the husks. That is really bad form. Weigh the ear in your hand. Does it feel heavy and full? Feel the top of the ear at the tip. Does it feel full too? If so you do not need to pull the husks back which hastens the spoiling of the ear and drying it out. Would you want to buy an ear somone else had pull the husk back on and discarded?

      1 Reply
      1. re: Candy

        I agree totally. I choose most fruits and veggies by sight, feel and smell. I rarely have gotten a bad ear and my unscientific guess that the % bad is much much lower than getting a brown avacado or a tasteless melon. If I was nervous I would just buy a few extra ears!

        My real question is the same as Candy's: For those that DO peak-Do you ever buy corn that other poeple have peaked at or it just a total loss for the farmer/grocer?

      2. Would you really buy an ear of corn that someone else has looked at and discarded? Serves as a hint that all is not well with it, right?

        Does a "full feeling" ear mean that the majority of the kernels are good and not brown and yucky?

        1. I look at it as any other fruit or vegetable. I would never cut up an avocado to see if it has brown streaks. Or open a package of blueberries to see if any are bad. I agree it is bad form.

          1. I pull just a little to peek at the end....checking for worms, rot. If there are, I don't take it, and no one else would anyway! Otherwise, I take the ear.

            1. A worthwhile ear of corn can be judge without opening it. It should be dense and heavy. The silk on the open end should be moist and green or straw colored. Corn sugar starts to turn to starch as soon as it is picked.

              Your nose can pick up any sign of rot. Worms genneraly only eat on the exposed end, and don't ruin a whole ear of corn.

              Those of you who recognize what is "bad form" amaze me. Too much produce is thrown away because of "bad form" everyone pays for it in the end.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Brandon Nelson

                "Those of you who recognize what is "bad form" amaze me. Too much produce is thrown away because of "bad form" everyone pays for it in the end."

                What do you mean by this? I don't understand?

                1. re: Brandon Nelson

                  I follow these same guidelenes for a good ear,(heaviness, denseness, fresh silk) and I've never, in recent memory, gotten a bad one...I nuke them in the microwave, and you have to have the whole package intact to do this...It amazes me that people are throwing away that perfectly good wrapping, and probably taking them home and wraping them in saran wrap or foil!!!

                2. I've always peeled back the husk and have found some bad ears. I don't just peel it back for the heck of it, I peel it back and if it looks ok then I buy it. Why should people buy something that doesn't look good? If a vegetable has a "bad form" then either the price needs to be reduced, the market shouldn't sell it in the first place, or no one will buy it and it will get removed. I know there are people who bruise fruits and vegetables but most people are more courteous than this.

                  1. Of course you have to peel it back, at least a little, and check it. Otherwise, it's like buying peaches without smelling them. Or buying pineapples without trying to pull a leaf off the top. What's up with this "bad form" business? Why would you not check something that you are going to purchase to consume?

                    1. The statement that something is in bad form means that it is in bad taste to do something. It is just a nicer way of saying it. It was not in reference to the corn.

                      Of course I would never buy fruits or vegetables without examining them. The difference is smelling a peach does not damage it. Peeling back a corns protective coating causes it to dry out and get dirty among other things.

                      Quite a few people still think an ear of corn is fine to eat even if it is not up to others standards. Plus, it is just what you get with produce. Sometimes its perfect sometimes it is not.

                      1. i hate when people shuck the corn at the store/stand too! i've never been able to figure out what people are looking for by peeling back the tip. i think so many people do it because they see other people do it, thinking that it's what you're supposed to do to find the good ears. i hate it even more when people actually get the whole thing out of the husk, then just throw it back. i prefer to grill corn in the husk so it sucks to get to a stand and all the corn is already shucked. i may just print this post up and hang them by corn displays and see what happens.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: rebs

                          Exactly. we, too, grill it in the husks. I doubt that hanging the post up in the market will help - let us know if it does! I've tried talking with people, politely, and have gotten nowhere. What I find particularly bizarre is that we rarely get a bad ear of corn - maybe once a season, I'd say. But we always buy an extra ear or two, just in case. They get eaten.

                          1. re: rebs

                            Yes. Thank you. Plus corn is 10 cents an ear in-season for crying out loud. If you're worried about getting a couple bad ones, just pay the extra 20 cents and get two extra ears instead of ruining the product.

                            1. re: MSPD

                              macca Corn is not 10 cents an ear anywhere near me!! I buy my produce at two places-and I usually pay about 50 cents per ear. I am in the boston area. I can probably get it cheaper in the supermarket, but it is not as good.
                              As a matter of fact, last summer, I was in New Hampshire, on my way to a lakehouse, and stopped by the side of the road where they were selling corn out of the back of a truck. STill paid $5.00 per dozen! You are lucky with 10 cents an ear!!

                            2. re: rebs

                              Because viewing the first 2" of the cob is a good indicator of the rest of the ear... Peeled back correctly, enough can be seen to make a proper decision.

                            3. In a heartbeat! After picking an unusual number of poor ears last summer and fall, I got over my "bad form" attitude quickly. I learned I really don't care to bring it home the first time when it's bad, and even when the store allowed the exchange, why should I waste _my_ time and money to return that same day to the same store with the bad produce?

                              Forget it. I'll peel back the husks and find the ears that are full, pest-free, and solid.

                              1. I think I'dfind a better source for my corn. I rarely get a bad ear from where I shop.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: Candy

                                  The sources I got that bad run from were Safeway, Gene's Fine Foods, and Cosentino's throughout the season. Each store was more-that-willing to swap the ears without anything more than my word but if I'd checked them like I'd watched both parents as a child, this wouldn't have been an issue. Also, the most awful tasting corn I've ever eaten was also some of the heaviest; pulpy, wooden; again bought without pulling back the husks.

                                  The two sources (Swank Farms & Van Gruden Bros.) I prefer to purchase my corn from are a little inconvenient to reach nowadays.

                                  No... I'll continue to peal back the husks of corn and shoulder the imagined ire of those that like betting against the house. Better still, I'd restrain myself if they'd purchase my corn for me.

                                  1. re: The Ranger

                                    How would pulling back the husks told you that it would be woody and pulpy-tasting?????

                                    1. re: galleygirl

                                      Sometimes it doesn't. But there are enough indicators from my doing this that the woodiness and pulpiness of corn have dramatically decreased that I'll continue.

                                      BTW: I have seen two gray foxes thumbnail cobbs. I don't know why but ones I put back so do they.

                                2. I peel back one strip 2-3 inches to check for rot or malformed kernels. If it's not satisfactory, I close it back up and put it back in the pile. This does not "destroy" the item, and I have purchased open ears that others have passed up.
                                  We've done this since I was a kid at the farmstand in rural Washington state to the glittering Whole Foods in San Francisco.

                                  BTW, every time I'm at Safeway I notice they set aside an entire trash can for husks right next to the display. Not sure if it is meant to encourage the behavior or if it was a reaction to it already. I'd be interested to hear a produce retailer weigh in on this one...

                                  1. Well it is one thing if people peel back the husks just for the heck of it and throw it back, but most people buy the ones they peel if the corn underneath is good. One poster asked if you would buy corn whose husk had been peeled back and my answer would be probably not since if they peeled it and put it back then most likely it wasn't a good ear of corn so why should I buy it? That's like saying would I take a steak that someone had sent back in the restaurant - there must be a reason why it was sent back so why should I take it? You will always find people who return or put something back for no good reason, but I like to think those are in the minority.

                                    Also, someone mentioned how corn is 10 cents an ear and so even if you get bad ears it is so cheap for goodness sakes why not just buy it kernals unseen? Well, why should I buy more corn than I need just so I have extras in case something is bad? I don't care how much it costs, that doesn't make sense. Then if I can't use the extras I wind up throwing it away so whether I leave it peeled at the store (because the corn underneath doesn't look good) or I toss it at home, either way it is wasted. Why not do this with canned foods, then - buy more than you need in case a can is bad? Because you expect uniformity of a product with canned foods and that's what you usually get. I have found with corn in the husk, there is often not that same uniformity. As I said in an earlier post, if I peel the husk and the corn looks ok, I buy it.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: monkuboy

                                      "Why not do this with canned foods, then - buy more than you need in case a can is bad? Because you expect uniformity of a product with canned foods and that's what you usually get. I have found with corn in the husk, there is often not that same uniformity."

                                      I believe this statement supports my side. When you buy any produce, there is a fair chance that it will be tasteless, or partly moldy, or brown in spots. If you are not willing to take the good with the bad, buy canned and frozen produce. It has been inspected and processed.

                                    2. I check, and I will always check.

                                      1. I was always cautioned that it was foolish to buy a pig in a poke--you need to look at what you are getting before purchasing. I just peel the top back a little bit to see if there is mold or severe malformation (that doesn't "destroy" the ear according to any definition of the term), and if it's good, I buy it. Why buy bad food? Also, I greatly appreciate the bins next to the corn stand, because I can choose my corn, remove the husks and silk, and take it home ready to cook. I don't think I have ever completely husked an ear of corn and then not bought it, since I did check first to see if it was okay.

                                        1. I'm reading all these responses, and it seems the difference is buying in a grocery store and buying fresh grown at a farm stand? I only buy corn in July and August when it's local, and I wouldn't dream to insult the farmer by peeling back. No matter what the price. (I'm also just excited that my local place put up a sign today that their own fresh corn is now available, I'm going tomorrow morning).

                                          1. You don't peel back the outer leaves on lettuce or cabbage do you?? There are plenty of ways to tell if it's any good from the outside. As someone who likes to soak the cobs in water and then roast them on the grill, peeling back the husk makes this a riskier proposition.
                                            I usually buy a few more than I need just in case. Just in case one or two are no good and just in case they're absolutely fantastic and I/we want more.

                                            Please take the time to learn what to look for and don't peel.


                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Davwud

                                              Let's at least _try_ to compare apple-to-apples and oranges-to-oranges (or corn-to-corn and lettuce-to-cabbage).

                                              I don't have ESP nor the deftness of touch to "know" if corn's going to be worth my purchase, unlike being able to see and feel a head of lettuce or cabbage, which have edible outer leaves when trimmed correctly. Husk-covered corn can have a multitude of problems that only seeing the cob and kernals will reveal. And I've already answered the question about buying extra -- just in case.

                                            2. husk, no-husk, bad form, dense, heavy, smell feel, return to sender, all good responses and the reason so many replies in such a compassionate manner, tha't why they call us hounds, looking for good stuff. I needed to husk my corn in the store do to allergies of my DW to the silks and I would run to the store late in the day, buy, husk, run home and cook. Drove me crazy but you do what you gotta do. With age allergies have gone away a little and I now am in the take a peek category, bring home and right before cooking go into the driveway, de-husk, wrap the husks in a plastic bag, tie and throw right in the trash.

                                              For true confession purposes - I also take one grape from a stem before buying and sneek a cherry from the pile before buying either of those. Likewise i only buy the bananas from the bunch that i will use before i think they will go brown.

                                              BTW - I am good friends with the produce guys and they have no problem with my actions, in fact I usually spend 5-10 minutes speaking with them each week about what to buy.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: jfood

                                                theres a diff tasting a grape or a cherry - your act will not affect freshness of product or discourage others from buying.

                                                Opening a cob and not buying is more like squeezing a peach and leaving a bruise - it makes the ear less salable.

                                                1. re: jfood

                                                  I do take a peak at the end of corn to check for worms. If there are worms, I don't buy it and no one else should be stuck with it, either. The market should take the loss. If it is big loss for the market, they should look for another supplier. On another note, what really bugs me is people who insist that they have to taste a cherry or grape without paying for it. Do you taste an orange or apple first, too? Peel a potato to check for brown sopts? Also as a profesional who works with small children, I don't want to gross you out, but I do see more than my share of nose picking and other unsavory acts. I am sure these same children are out shopping with their parents and may have their hands in those same cherries that you are eating from. Not top mention people who sneeze and cough and cough Personally, I prefer to wash my fruit before I eat it. In fact just to play mind games on shoppers helping themselves, I have mentioned to several that I just saw a child engaging in picking his/her nose and then picking out some cherries for mom. Gets them thinking about tasting in the future.

                                                2. I don't peel back the husks and was surprised to see so many do. We prefer our corn with kernals that aren't so developed. Typically the silk end will be underdeveloped. Most of the corn I buy is at a local cart by the side of the road/pay on the honor system. It was picked that day and weight depends on the variety. This farmer posts a sign with the name of the corn variety so this is a good help. Toward the end of the season the Silver King/Queen types are usually a bigger ear overall and weigh more even when young. If we get an occasional worm, we simply cut it out. I like to cook some extra ears to have leftover for lunch, just wrap in plastic wrap and re-heat in the microwave. The new super sweet varieties hold their sweetness longer but in years past we wanted corn that had just been picked. I'm guessing that some of you would unwrap an ear and toss it back as undeveloped yet that is the size I would think is perfect ... except I don't want it to have dried out because you unwrapped it. I suppose if you only have supermarket corn to buy you have to be more careful but I'm surprised to hear of problems with corn borers and mold. Corn is treated to prevent corn borers so they should be a rare occurence. Maybe the grower skimped on pesticides. The State Depts of Agriculture publish a market bulletin with the "going prices". I pay whatever my neighbor wants to charge and hope they are making enough money to keep growing it. Don't forget the small grower is probably paying more for fertilizer, seeds and pesticides than large commercial growers who supply chain groceries. Around us, small farmers are growing produce on land that's getting more and more expensive to own due to property taxes and demand. This year a friend reports that her parents lost several plantings of corn due to severe rain/flooding so I'm going to expect higher prices this summer and maybe some weeks when corn isn't available (she said there will be gaps at her parents' farmstand).

                                                  1. Most purveyors do not like the ears to be "pulled back". Places we shop discourage it and only once have we been disappointed. In that case an animal resident was brought home and revealed itself only as I shucked the ear outside before cooking. The merchant was a sort of local purist farmer who I am happy not to patronize any more.

                                                    1. i always pull back and check the kernels too. everyone where and when i shop seem to do it too. didn't even knwo it was an "issue." want to make sure the kernels look good, are not rotted/ all brown, not too large, not too small, or with yucky worms in grooves.

                                                      1. Never. Unless I am cooking it immediately, or unless it's a supersweet variety (ick), opening up the husk jumpstarts the decline of the ear of corn, which isn't worth it. I have very very rarely (never more than once a year, if that -- more like once every three years) found a worm or defective ear (I don't count an ear missing some kernals at the top as defective in the least). All the useful information can be gleaned by the eye and hand-feel.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: Karl S

                                                          I bought the first local corn of the season at my friend's parents' farmstand. They post an unshucked ear so people can see what it looks like. This early variety is small but I thought some of the smaller ears were too small. I chose my corn based on weight. It was a supersweet variety with well formed kernals to the very tip. My husband husked it and announced it was too big. All of us were surprised at how good it was. I think the supersweet varieties make choosing corn a bit tricky. Unfortunately the farm stand did not post the variety name nor whether it was a super sweet variety. Silver King/Queen, a late, non-sweet variety is a big ear but if the kernals were as well developed as what I ate last night, they would have been starchy and tough. I asked my friend about corn huskers ... she became livid about the waste and how much corn they have to throw out every day because it had been opened. It seems to me that if I opened any corn I would quickly become persona non grata at the local stands.

                                                        2. I can't believe nobody has pointed out that the process of pulling back corn to check its viability is probably an outdated mechanism, from a time when people wanted to make sure they were getting fresh corn.

                                                          There are no worms in corn sold in supermarkets, these days.

                                                          I trust my supermarket. Pulling back the husk a wee bit at the top to check if the ear has full kernels is as far as I go, but old habits die hard. In the past, there were good reasons why people checked their corn before purchasing. I was brought up in a family that pulled back the husk to check the quality of corn. I'm 40. Would I teach my kid to do it? I would say probably not, but that's because I rarely buy corn from the supermarket. Over time, I've come to learn that I'd rather eat the freshest corn, or no corn at all, so I buy it in the summer, when fresh, from the farmers at the farmer's market. And there, I trust the corn.

                                                          1. Please! I don't understand what the fuss is about. If you are buying a fresh product you have the right to inspect the product before you buy it. Do you look at tomatoes or peppers or avocados before you buy them? If you look at the corn, why is that bad form? I don't want to get home to find rotten crappy corn under the husk. I'm looking for uniform kernels and a beautiful, healthy ear of corn.
                                                            I was raised in farm country, worked at a farm stand for many a summer, where we sold tons (literally) of corn. The customers would check the corn before they bought it. Heck I wanted them to check it to see what beautiful produce we were selling them.
                                                            If the vendor has nothing to hide, let the buyer inspect the product before purchase.

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: OneJayneDoe

                                                              Do you ever buy corn that has been opened at an unknown time before you got there? I don't think I've ever seen anyone do that. Once the corn is opened, it's either bought by the opener or trashed, in effect. And often those not bought would have been perfectly fine -- *if* a subsequent buyer knew how soon it had been previously opened (the longer the amount of time, the faster it degrades; less true for supersweet varieties that some of us try to avoid.) The sheer amount of waste of corn that is perfectly fine is appalling, and that is why I was trained any many cornstands that it was the depth of rudeness to do this. INspection can be easily done without opening husk -- you don't let customers cut open a tomato before buying, do you? -- and speeding up the starching and drying out process.

                                                              1. re: Karl S

                                                                I would agree with you KarlS if there was not a garbage can filled with husks from other customers that husk the entire ear, and leave the corn fully exposed for hours before cooking. As long as people are prepared to start the "starching" process through this practice I truly believe that these types will also take partially opened ears and remove the husks right there. I have also seen people just come in grab a number of ears without any inspection, several of these were partially opened. Some people just do not care as much as us chowdies.