How Sweet it Is: Corn
Author: be well™ with Big Y® Registered Dietitian Team
Let’s be honest: During the height of local corn season, not much beats simply enjoying a fresh ear of corn-on-the-cob. Whether you enjoy it naked or dressed up with butter, salt and pepper, chomping on a hot ear of corn is woven into the fabric of many people’s summertime childhood memories.
If your culinary adventure during local corn season starts at one end of an ear of corn and ends at the other, you’ll receive no judgment here. But, if you’re curious about what more can be done with these delicious gems of summer, let’s get started.
The Nutritional Benefits of Corn
Corn, on or off the cob, is a nutrition powerhouse. Regardless of its color— yellow, white, or red— corn is a tasty source of carbohydrates, fiber, protein, minerals and vitamins. One medium-ear of corn provides 88 calories, 19 grams carbohydrates — of which 2 grams are fiber and 6 grams are intrinsic sugar (or naturally-occurring sugar) — and 3 grams protein.1
In addition to minerals like iron and zinc, you obtain an assortment of B-vitamins with every bite of corn you enjoy, too. To help keep you feeling your best when enjoying this summer treat, corn offers:
- Thiamin- An important puzzle piece for your cell’s and nervous system’s health.2
- Niacin- A beneficial vitamin for cardiovascular health due to its role with “good cholesterol” (high-density lipoprotein [HDL]) and triglycerides.3
- Folate- Imperative in the prevention of neural tube defects when women are first pregnant and cardiovascular health.4
Just like any other plant-based food (e.g.: vegetable, fruit, grain and dried pea, bean and lentil), the color of the corn you choose dictates the type of pigments, and thereby antioxidant-acting plant compounds, it contains. Yellow corn is the predominant variety enjoyed and its color comes from carotenoids. Two impactful carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, are known for their role in protecting eye health. These two golden carotenoids may aid in reducing age-related macular degeneration as well.5 Not too shabby for a top vegetable choice of kids of all ages.
Choosing and Storing the Best Corn-on-the-Cob
Be mindful when picking, storing and preparing corn-on-the-cob to ensure you have the juiciest, sweetest, most tender tasting product possible. Pull back the husks slightly to make sure the kernels are plump and bright — move on if you find they are dried or sunken in. Corn generally tastes its best immediately after harvesting. With that said, cobs can still be enjoyed up to 7 days post-harvest. Simply wrap ears in a plastic bag, while they remain in their husks, for storing in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator.
Cooking with Fresh Corn
Regardless of how you are cooking fresh corn, remove the silk between the husk and kernels. Grilling is a summer time favorite that can be done either with or without the cob covered by the husk. Simply pull back husks, remove silk, and either place husks back to original position or leave them pulled back to serve as handles. If you’re cooking with the red variety of corn, be prepared to see a color show! Depending how you prepare it, red corn will change to different hues — boiled they become blue; microwaved purple is their color; and if roasting is your preference, expect deep maroon.
Making Condiments with Fresh Corn
Whether it’s a backyard barbecue, a family reunion or Monday’s lunch at work, adding corn to grilled chicken, hot dogs, tacos, sandwiches and leafy green salads hits the sweet spot. From corn relish and corn salsa to good ol’ traditional corn chow chow, experimenting with different mixtures of vegetables, vinegars, spices and herbs opens the door to a whole array of flavors to accent fresh corn.
Corn Salad, Sure to Delight
Beyond the basics of condiment-style salads, heartier corn salads can be the star of any summer luncheon or dinner. Pairing tasty delights like Street Style Corn and Bean Salad with additional sources of protein, such as grilled shrimp, steak and chicken, and a side of fruit like fresh local raspberries, watermelon and apples is sure to satiate appetites and cravings.
Corn Soup Now…and Later
If you’re a soup lover all year long — we see you. Hot weather may send some far from their stock pots amidst summer heat, but there are plenty who like a good warm up during “air-condition” season. The benefit of whipping up a tasty vat of soup featuring fresh summer corn is you can also freeze or can your creation to enjoy later in the year when temperatures drop. A sprinkle of summer sweetness in the middle of January, anyone?
Some of our favorite options include corn chowder, ramen and chicken tortilla. If your inventive side is begging to shine, why not go season-centric with a kitchen-sink option? Whatever is harvested any given week makes it into your pot. With tasty vegetables like kale, carrots, peas, zucchini, squash, tomatoes and corn in season, the possibilities are endless. Grab a spoon and dig in!
Baking with Corn
Adding fresh corn kernels to baked dishes provides a sweet burst of flavor. Baked goods like corn bread and corn muffins will never taste the same. Same goes for corn fritters and savory potato pancakes. When it comes to corn casserole and corn pudding, corn is the princess of at the ball — and rightly so.
Supporting Local Corn Farmers
One of our favorite incentives for enjoying corn season is being able to support our neighbors and communities. Local farms such as Meadowbrook Farm in East Longmeadow, Massachusetts, Calabrese Farm in Southwick, Massachusetts, Cecarelli's Harrison Hill Farm in Northford, Connecticut and Kinderhook Creek Farm in Stephentown, New York are just a few of the local farms our Produce team collaborates with to bring their harvest into our stores. Whether you live directly next to their fields or not, you can help support their families and workers by purchasing their produce at your local Big Y Neighborhood Market.
Enjoy the best of the corn season these recipes!
For more corn-inspired recipes, check out more recipes on bigy.com!
1 U.S. Department of Agriculture. FoodData Central: corn, sweet, yellow, raw. Accessed 7/19/2023.
2 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health. Medline Plus: thiamin. Accessed 7/19/2023. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002401.htm.
3 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health. Medline Plus: niacin. Accessed 7/19/2023. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002409.htm.
4 National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Fact sheet for consumers: folate. Accessed 7/19/2023.
5 National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Fact sheet for health professionals: vitamin A and carotenoids. Accessed 7/19/2023. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Folate-Consumer/.