Maize or corn grew wild for centuries before early settlers in North and Central America discovered its value as a food source.

Sweet corn is a mutation of field corn, which has more starch. During the growing cycle, the conversion of sugar to starch is slowed considerably, leading to ‘sweet’ corn. Today’s sweet corn comes in three kernel colors: yellow, white, and bicolor (though a blue-kernel variety pioneered by the Iroquois still exists).

Newer varieties, known as the Supersweets, have rapidly gained market acceptance. These varieties, like the name suggests, are sweeter, bred to resist a number of diseases, and have a longer shelf life than their predecessors. Although sugar still begins turning to starch after harvest, Supersweets will maintain their desired taste several days longer than conventional varieties.

References: Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, Cornell University, Purdue University, USDA.


Corn Seasonal Availability Chart


Since quality and taste decline as days pass from harvest to sale to consumption, it is important to pack and ship quickly. Moisture and cool temperatures are essential to maintain freshness and slow the sugar to starch conversion.

Sweet corn can be hydrocooled or vacuum-cooled after harvest, and top iced to maintain moisture. If ice is used, storage temperatures should be slightly warmer than the usual recommendation of 32 to 34°F, up to about 36°F. If, however, temperatures fall below 31°F, freezing injury may occur. In addition to freezing, ice crusting can inhibit adequate air circulation.

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