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Selecting the Freshest Sweet Corn

sweet corn in field with farmer opening to look at kernels
A truckload of fresh-from-the-field corn is a glorious sight. Learn how to find the freshest sweet corn so you can enjoy fresh sweet corn all year long.


A truckload of fresh-from-the-field corn on the cob is a glorious site to me. I have fond memories of going to the river bottoms growing up and getting a pickup truck load of corn. We would then sit under the tree and shuck all of it so it could be preserved for eating later.

Knowing what to look for when purchasing sweet corn, and the best time to purchase it, will give you a bounty that will taste like summertime all year long!

If you want the freshest sweet corn, look for:

  • silks that are brown and dry; the tips of the ears should be full
  • ears that are full of kernels with no missing rows
  • tender kernels that are milky and well developed
  • kernels that are large enough to be compact on the cob with no spaces between rows

To check the corn, pull back the husks at the end of the ears.

For best quality, the corn should be in the milk stage, which means the corn is at its sweetest. If a kernel is broken, the white milk should come out of the corn. If there is no liquid, the ear has passed its prime, and the kernels will be doughy.

For maximum sweetness, enjoy right after harvest. If sweet corn cannot be eaten right away, leave in husks, remove long shanks and store uncovered in the refrigerator for no longer than 5 days.

If it is necessary to refrigerate for later use, cool rapidly to below 40°F to retain sweetness and tenderness, because the sugar in corn turns to starch quickly at higher temperatures. Corn that is the sweetest will keep for about a week in the refrigerator. For longer storage, preserve by freezing, canning or drying.

What varieties of sweet corn should I look for?

When purchasing your corn, consider that there are several varieties of sweet corn available. Some, such as super sweet, have more sugar than other varieties and will keep longer in the refrigerator. Corn also come in a variety of colors: white, yellow and the varieties that have both colors of kernels on the same ear. Individual preferences vary; try different varieties to find your favorite.

At farmers markets you can find farm fresh corn. This weekend I bought Bradley AR corn at the Gateway Farmers Market. It was so sweet and good. When buying at the market or back of a truck, buy it in the morning. As it sits in the sun, sugar starts to convert to starch affecting flavor. Hot temperatures will definitely affect the flavor. So buy it on the way home rather than at the beginning of a shopping expedition.  

Buy fresh corn when it is locally in season, such as now. Corn begins to lose flavor immediately after being picked. If you have to purchase corn at the supermarket, be sure that the corn is advertised as locally grown.

If you purchase more than you can use immediately, sweet corn can be preserved for later use by freezing, canning or drying. For best quality, corn should be preserved right after picking.

Check out our resources for preserving vegetables.

If you would like to receive more information on corn, contact the Miller County Extension Office, 870-779-3609 or visit us in room 215 at the Miller County Courthouse.

Grill up some sweet corn on the cob for dinner tonight. It combines fresh sweet corn with savory herbs for that just right taste.

Sweet Corn on the Cob

  • 8 ears of corn, silk removed
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup margarine, melted
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon crushed rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon rubbed sage
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Peel back the husk, leaving it intact at the bottom and remove the silk. 
  2. Wash the ear well and pull husk back to top.
  3. Soak corn in cold water for 1 to 3 hours.
  4. Meanwhile in a separate bowl, combine all remaining ingredients.
  5. Drain the corn well and pull back husk and pat dry.
  6. Spread margarine mixture evenly on all ears of corn.
  7. Pull husk back up on the corn, and tie the top of the husks, or twist tightly.
  8. Preheat grill for medium heat.  Grill for about 20 to 30 minutes, turning frequently.
  9. Remove from the grill and check for doneness, if the corn is not done, continue cooking an additional 5-10 minutes.

Optional: If you are unsure about cooking with the husks on, place each corncob on a square of aluminum foil. Tightly wrap each ear and puncture to allow excess steam to escape while grilling.


By Carla Due
County Extension Agent - FCS
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Carla Due
County Extension Agent - FCS
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
400 Laurel Street, Suite 215 Texarkana AR 71854
(870) 779-3609