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Why is Sweet Corn sweet?

A basket of sweet corn, three ears partially husked

When you reminisce about long summer days, it’s hard not to think about sweet corn on the cob whether you like it boiled, grilled, or roasted. Sweet corn is synonymous with summer but is it that makes sweet corn sweet?

The majority of corn that you drive by in the field is dent corn also known as field or feed corn. It is corn destined for animal feeds and other industrial uses; it is not the corn destined for your summer time BBQ.

Unlike field corn varieties, which are allowed to dry and harvest at full maturity, sweet corn is harvested at the ‘milk stage’. As corn kernels dry the sugar in them converts to starch; harvesting the sweet corn at an early stage in maturation allows higher contents of sugars to remain in the grain making the corn sweet. Sweetness in corn is a naturally occurring recessive gene that humans have been enjoying since the Native Americans. Sweet corn does not store well so the sooner you cook and enjoy your corn on the cob the better it will taste.