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Jul 2, 2007 08:01 AM

Where is the sweet corn of yesteryear?

Many 'hounds have commented on the prevalence of super sweet varieties of white corn, especially in the past 10-15 years, which has virtually driven yellow corn out of markets. Sweetness drives out flavor just as bad money drives out good. Our local farmers' market is generally a wonderful one (Marin County, California) and in the Bay Area corn from the Brentwood region has been the best available. One stand at the market would have a small mound of yellow next to the mountain of white, and I always felt lucky to grab some ears of it--picked that morning.

I did this yesterday and ate it for dinner. The juiciness: perfect. The texture: perfect, not a bit of mealiness. The flavor: Oh Noooo!!! It had gone SWEET! Not as sweet as the white stuff, a little bit more corn-like in flavor, but not that corn of memory and dream that had the texture and the juiciness and also actually tasted like corn--not like Halloween candy corn.

I was raised in Michigan and perhaps in the midwest there is still available what I think of as real corn. But my impression is that this is becoming harder to find. Or is there a nacent heirloom corn movement such as we have seen achieve success in tomatoes and even pork? What varieties, if so? I would love to know about it and try to get some local growers to provide us with corn that tastes like corn. I never liked that Halloween stuff anyway.

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    1. I think for the most part, unless you seek out heirloom varieties of sweet corn, that all you find in the markets any more are hybrids that have been bred for long shelf life and shipability.

      Look for good corn at local farm stands, and ask what variety it is you are buying.

      1 Reply
      1. re: ChefJune

        People have gotten so used to sugary-sweet corn they think that's how it's SUPPOSED to taste. It's been an awful long time since I've had corn worth the butter, salt and pepper, stuff that actually required a bit of chewing. The corn of my childhood was not too many generations away from plain field corn - in fact, some of it was field corn, and had to be picked green to eat like that.

      2. like the tomato, corn is to be eaten in the short summer/early fall season from the local farm stand, backyard or farmers market. supermarket corn or tomatoes (although they serve their purpose) are not the same products as the afore mentioned.

        1 Reply
        1. re: byrd

          I haven't found heirloom corn at a farm stand or farmers market in years. Even old su hybrids like Silver Queen are virtually extinct as a commercial crop. It's all se and sh2 hybrids.

          R. W. Apple Jr. wrote a piece about hybrid corn for the New York Times in 2004:

        2. The best corn in the world is from Taber, Alberta. Deep, deep yellow corn with an incredible flavour and sweetness.

          And yeah, I said best corn in the world :)

          4 Replies
          1. re: Shazam

            I'll be in Calgary, Brooks, and Drumheller in August. Any chance I might find some of this corn?

            1. re: Steve

              Yup. There'll be corn stands all over town. Ask them if it is Taber corn, and ask to see their certificate of authenticity. Co-op and the Superstore grocery chains usually get some in as well.

              I have no idea how the crop is doing this year, so let's hope it's good :)

              1. re: Steve

                I miss it so much since I moved from Edmonton to Toronto, although I have to admit that the produce here is amazing too.

              2. It's been my experience that the corn grown on the Hurley flats along the Esopus Creek in the Hudson Valley has been the most consistently tasty. If you find yourself on the NY Thruway, just make a quick exit at the Kingston/Woodstock exit, and pick some up at the Davenport farm stand just on the other side of the Traffic Circle.