If you yearn for fresh corn in mid January, you’re in luck. Thanks to Florida growers, the taste of “summer sweet” corn is available all year long. Through experimentation, they have come up with a variety of corn called “Florida Sweets” which has twice the sugar content of regular corn and the natural sugar converts to starch at a much slower rate. This allows the corn to stay crisp and sweet longer after being picked and shipped. Having said this, fresh “local” corn always tastes best, especially if you know how to choose them.
When purchasing fresh “local” corn during summer, always pick from the top of the heap since corn that’s packed tightly on top of each other will generate its own heat. This not only causes the ears to sweat which promotes premature spoilage, but warm temperature encourages the natural sugar content of corn to quickly convert to starch which adversely affects both taste and texture. Also, (for the same reasons) if you shop at an outdoor farmer’s market, it’s best to go first thing in the morning so your corn isn’t sitting out in the hot sun for hours.
To identify a healthy ear of corn: The husks should be tight, green and fresh-looking (not puckered, yellow and dry). If your shopkeeper allows, strip back a portion of the husk to view the packing structure of the kernels. The rows should be tight and the kernels plump; any sign of shriveling means it’s “over the hill.” If you prick a kernel with your thumbnail, the liquid that emerges should be milky and rich, not thin and watery (which indicates immaturity).
Once home, store corn in the refrigerator (preferably in its original husk) or in a perforated plastic bag. If you’ve bought more than you can use within a day or two, parboil the ears for one minute (then refresh in ice cold water) and dry well. Doing this will stop any conversion of sugar to starch. Corn that’s given this initial “blanching” will require less cooking to become tender.