Sweet Corn

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About

The corn that we eat as a vegetable is a fresh version of the same grain that gives us dry, starchy popcorn and cornmeal (chapter 9). Each individual grain on an ear of corn is a miniature fruit that’s mainly seed, a combination of a small embryonic plant and its relatively large food supply of storage proteins and starch. We eat fresh corn about three weeks after pollination, while the fruits are immature, their storage tissues still sweet and juicy. Corn owes its typical yellow color to carotenoid pigments, including zeaxanthin (which derives its name from corn, Zea mays, and is one of the two main eye-protecting antioxidants). There are also white varieties with low carotenoid levels, as well as anthocyanin-colored red and blue varieties, and green ones too.