When we slip into those lazy, hazy days of summer, the corn has reached “an elephant’s eye” and is ready to eat! Corn is one of America’s favorite foods; especially in the summer months, when it is fresh from the fields
Nutritionally, corn is a high carbohydrate food. It is also high in protein, but lacks the essential amino acids lysine and tryptophan. However, you can compensate for these low levels by combining corn with plant foods high in these amino acids, such as legumes or serving with animal sources. It is also a good source of Vitamin C and a moderate source of fiber. Yellow kernel corn contains small amounts of Vitamin A.
For corn, freshness means staying cool, since warmth converts the sugar in the kernels into starch. Shop early in the day for the best selection of locally grown corn. Ideally, it should be picked the morning you buy it. If you are making a trip to the country, take along a cooler in which to pack it.
Check that the husks are fresh-looking tight, and green. Strip back part of the husk to see whether tightly packed rows of kernels fill the ear. The kernels at the tip should be smaller but still plump, rather than shrunken. Large kernels at the tip are signs of over-maturity. Pop a kernel with your fingernail: milky juice should spurt out. If the liquid is watery, the corn is immature. If the kernel is tough, and its contents doughy, the corn is overripe. The silk should be moist, soft, and light golden, not brown and brittle.
To best enjoy fresh corn’s flavor, “the sooner, the better” is a rule of thumb. Try not to store corn for more than a few hours; cook it as soon as it is picked. If that is not possible, be sure to refrigerate it immediately. When you have more on hand that you can eat in a day or two, parboil it just a minute or two. This stops the conversion of sugar or starch. It can then be stored in the refrigerator for up to three days. Finish the cooking process by dropping the corn into a pot of boiling water for one minute.
There are many schools of thought on the best way to cook corn on the cob, but there are two basic rules. Do not add salt to the water, as it will toughen the corn. Cook the corn only long enough to tenderize it—a matter of minutes. To boil the corn, add the husked ears of corn to a pot of boiling water. Cover and let the water return to a boil. Turn the heat off and let stand for 5 minutes. To microwave corn, individually wrap one or two ears of husked corn in wax paper or place several ears in a covered dish with 2 to 3 tablespoons of water. Cooking times for wrapped corn are, 3 to 6 minutes and 5 to 7 minutes if in a dish. To roast corn, pull back the husks to remove the silk. Tie husks shut with string and soak in cold water for 5 minutes. Bury the ears of corn in the hot coals of a barbeque fire or place them on the grill. Turn the occasionally as they cook. Cooking time on coals is 10 to 15 minutes and 15 to 20 minutes on the grill.
The traditional way of eating corn is with plenty of butter, yet each teaspoon of butter or margarine adds about 34 calories of almost pure fat. Many people also salt corn liberally. Instead try seasonings such as lemon or lime juice, pepper, fresh herbs, or a light dressing of vinegar and oil. Butter substitutes are another great way to get that butter taste without the calories.