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Sweetcorn

sweet corn

Sweetcorn (or sweet corn, also known as sugar corn), is a hybridized variety of maize (Zea mays), specifically bred to increase the sugar content. Sweetcorn is commonly known as simply corn in the United States, Canada, and Australia. In Brazil it is known as "Milho Verde" (Green Corn). The fruit of the sweetcorn plant is the corn kernel, a type of fruit called a caryopsis. The ear is a collection of kernels on the cob. The ear is covered by tightly wrapped leaves called the husk. Silk is the name for the pollen tubes. These are both removed by hand, before boiling but not before roasting, in a process called husking or shucking.

Sweetcorn is commonly eaten as a vegetable, rather than a grain. The cobs are picked for relatively rapid distribution (or frozen in this 'soft' state) before the fruits mature into hard grains. The kernels are boiled or steamed and eaten as a side dish, sometimes with butter. Corn on the cob is a sweetcorn cob that has been boiled, steamed, or grilled whole; the kernels are then bitten off the cob with the teeth, also commonly served with butter. Creamed corn sometimes refers to sweetcorn kernels that are cut when removing from the cob to free the juices, and other times to a side dish made with corn and milk.

Sweetcorn may also be eaten in its dry grain form. If left to dry on the plant, kernels may be taken off the cob and cooked with popcorn. Sweetcorn does not pop like popcorn, but expands to about double the original kernel size. The result is what some call corn nuts. A soup may also be made from the plant, called sweet corn soup. Either way, corn is a very successful crop in the United States.

Shoepeg corn is a particularly small, white variety of sweetcorn. Kernels that are allowed to mature to hard grains are used as seed corn or ground into corn flour.

"Original" - that is, open-pollinated corn, which will breed true from seed - is now rare. Its chief drawback is that the sugars in it begin rapidly turning to starches literally the instant it is picked, leading to such folk sayings as that one walks out to the corn field but runs back from it (to get the corn to the stove in as few seconds as possible); Mark Twain once suggested building corn roasters in the midst of corn fields.

From open-pollinated corn have been hybridized corn cultivars that are not only sweeter, but which notably hold their sweetness longer, supposedly for a few days. There are "generations" of such sugary hybrids, from extra-sweet through, nowadays, "triple-sweets". Corn fanciers like the holding power of the hybrids, but many feel that the true corn flavor is, in the more recent and sweeter hybrids, overpowered by the sweetness. The sweeter hybrids need to be isolated from other types, else they will cross-pollinate with them and lose their special character.

Open-pollinated corn is referred to as "su" (sugary) corn; the first generation of hybrid sweets is "se" (sugar-enhanced); the newer supersweets--which today comprise multiple classes--are "sh" (shrunken-gene).

In 2005, a poll of 2,000 people revealed that sweetcorn was Britain's 2nd favourite culinary vegetable.

Botanical History

Maize is the third most grown cereal crop in the world after rice and wheat. Like wheat and rice, it is also a type of grass with an overgrown seed head. It is generally agreed that it originated in Central or South America but this is speculation as there is no living wild relative. Two possible ancestors are the annual Zea mexicana (know as Teosinte locally) and the tripsacum both of which readily hybridise with the maize plant.

However prehistoric forms of corn, with seed heads about the size of a matchbox dating back to 70 000 BC, have been found in an archaeological dig in Mexico city. From the same dig there is evidence that a later form of this prehistoric plant was cultivated around 3500 BC. Around 3000 years later forms of corn also turn up in Peru and in both areas there is more evidence of selective breeding of the plant to form the larger seed heeds we know today. [1]

References

  • Hamilton, Dave (2005). - Sweetcorn". Retrieved June. 11, 2005.

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