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Aug 4, 2006 03:54 AM

Fresh yellow corn - why so scarce?

For reasons unknown to me fresh yellow corn has disappeared from most supermarket produce departments over the last few years.

OTOH the small kernel, (too) sweet white corn is everywhere at this time of year.

I know yellow corn is still around in the freezer section (frozen kernels and mini-cobs) and at farmers markets (if you are lucky). A month ago at an FM I talked to someone from a well known growing area (Brentwood, CA) who was surprised at my comment.

Mike in SoCal

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  1. The new strain of 'supersweet corn' is the only corn that supermarkets carries. Because of the high sugar content, it stays sweet and less starchy longer. It comes in both white and yellow kernels but for some reason, supermarket buyers think that consumers prefer the white. I totally agree with you that this strain is way too sweet and has no corn taste...terrible.

    1. Yellow corn can be found at better supermarkets like Mollie Stones in the Bay Area. I just bought some today as they were having a special. You can find them at Whole Foods, Gelson's, Wild Oats. Most of those supermarkets are in Southern California as that is where I live, just in the Bay Area for the weekend. I've noticed yellow corn is usually shucked and wrapped in plastic if you want it at the supermarket.

      1. Probably because yellow supermarket corn is associated with corn that turned entirely to starch.

        1. Color of corn tends to be a regional preference. On the East Coast you will find more white corn in PA and yellow or bi-color in NY stores, that's just the way it is. I don't know about CA, but maybe that is why you see more yellow corn in the Bay Area. Also, some yellow corn varieties are earlier maturing than white, so the first *local* corn of the season is usually yellow, maybe another reason why it is more available in northern CA.

          Both regular and supersweet corns are available in either yellow, white or bi-color. If you find the supermarket corns too sweet you will have to seek out a farm stand or farmer's market and tell them specifically that you don't want supersweet varieties; you may pay a little more but you can get what you want. As someone else noted supermarkets tend to carry supersweet corn because of better shipability and shelf life. Supersweet corn also tends to have less "corn flavor" and can be chewier, but it is very sweet.

          The best corn varieties for eating off the cob are called "sugar enhanced". They are tender, sweet but not overly so and have good corn flavor; I wouldn't be too concerned about the color. You will have to ask at a farmer's market. Supersweet corn is good for freezing though.

          2 Replies
          1. re: gnocchi

            >>The best corn varieties for eating off the cob are called "sugar enhanced". They are tender, sweet but not overly so and have good corn flavor; I wouldn't be too concerned about the color<<

            While there's no disputing taste, I can't agree with either of these claims. Personally, I'd rather eat freshly picked fodder corn than any sugar-enhanced variety. Dessert belongs at the end of the meal, TYVM. Also, I find the paler the corn, the less flavour (which is not to say that all yellow varieties are equally flavourful), though these days I buy Silver Queen when I can find it since it's far better than the sugar and candy varieties that have taken over the market, even the farmers' market. But it's a question of *faute de mieux* and each season I search in vain for a farmer who's selling heirloom cob corn. A real pity.

            1. re: gnocchi

              Here is an example of studying preferences for corn in Maine:


              The northeast and midwest eat more sweet corn than other parts of the country. White corn was the dominant form until about a hundred years ago. Color itself is not an indicator of sweetness at all; it's just an indicator of pigment.

            2. I share the view that today's sweet corn has way to much sweet and not nearly enough corn. I shop at farmer's markets in my NoCal area and seek the corn mentioned by an earlier poster from the Bay Area town of Brentwood. My favorite grower has yellow corn only sometimes and it also has become sweeter and less corny than the wonderful corn of memory but still better than the white. (Perhaps this is a psychological effect?) Ironically, the yellow always sells out quickly but they still show many times more white than yellow. Recently I returned to the farmer's market of my youth, in Michigan, and found the first of the year corn to be exclusively the bi-color variety unheard of there in my childhood. It too seemed sweeter and less corn-flavored than I remember but it was still early in their season.

              I guess we who love the true corn flavor that we remember from yellow corn will have to wait for a heirloom variety revolution as has happened with tomatoes.

              3 Replies
              1. re: alfairfax

                I think bi-color has become popular with the farmers because they think it covers all bases and can satisfy the most customers. It is easier to grow just one color than several. If white corn is planted next to yellow corn of the same maturity there will be cross-polination with unpredictable coloring.

                I think it's also true that if a farmer is growing supersweet corn it has to be planted distant from other types in his/her (or neighbors) fields or the results will be unsweet, tough corn from the cross-pollination. Another reason growers, especially smaller ones, stick to one type.

                1. re: alfairfax

                  It's not so much the varieties as shopping patterns. The lifespan of heirloom varieties is very short, and to grow and sell such a crop in a sustainable fashion you'd need a lot more folks who are able to shop daily or throughout the week. That world is largely gone. Farmers have to have crops they can hold well until the weekend shopping cycle now.

                  For tomatoes, that's different than for corn.

                  And of course memory plays tricks on tastebuds....

                  1. re: Karl S

                    >>And of course memory plays tricks on tastebuds....<<

                    Not in this case. On the rare occasions I get to eat Golden Bantam or other old varieties (almost always from a home garden), the flavour is exactly as I remember it from my youth.