Fresh Corn Carbohydrates and Qualities

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

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Fresh corn contains three different forms of carbohydrate that contribute different qualities, and that are present in different proportions depending on the variety. The corn plant produces sugars and sends them to the seed, where they are temporarily held as is and impart sweetness until the cells string them together into large storage molecules. Very large sugar chains get packed into starch granules, which have no taste and lend a chalky texture to uncooked corn. Then there are medium-sized, tasteless sugar aggregates called “water-soluble polysaccharides,” which have many short branches of sugar molecules. These bushy structures are small enough to float in dissolved form in the cell fluids, yet large enough that they bind up a lot of water molecules and get in each other’s way, and thus thicken the fluid to a creamy, smooth consistency.