Fresh corn is at its peak between July and September for most of the United States — and since the kernels are at their sweetest and juiciest as soon as each ear is picked, now’s the time to take advantage. It doesn’t take much prep to make it taste amazing, so it’s one of the best foods to enjoy in a heat wave.
If you think corn has zero nutritional value because it passes through you intact, that’s not the case, according to Julia Zumpano, a registered dietitian with the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Human Nutrition. “Corn is definitely good for you,” she confirmed, and “eating fresh corn on the cob will give you the most nutritional benefits.”
Much of corn’s reputation is unjustified. “It’s given a bad rap as being high in sugar,” Zumpano said, but depending on the size, an ear of corn has between 3 to 6 grams of sugar and is about 100 to 110 calories. In addition, when you eat corn, “a lot of the carbohydrates aren’t necessarily being digested or absorbed. It’s the joy of eating a carb and knowing you’re not digesting half of it.”
Corn is also high in lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids that may help decrease the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts, Zumpano said, and contains B vitamins as well as essential minerals such as magnesium and potassium.
Yellow corn is higher in antioxidants than white corn because of the pigments in each kernel. Red, blue or purple sweet corn has even more pigments, if you know a home gardener or local farmer who’s growing these rarer varieties.
Cooking and prepping fresh corn
To use corn in the recipes that follow, you’ll need to strip the kernels off the cob. There are corn stripping tools that can help you accomplish this task, but my favorite method uses two items already in the kitchen: a sharp paring knife and a large bowl.
Hold the corn vertically and stem side up in the bowl. Run the paring knife down each side of the corn, turning as you go, to remove the kernels. By using a small knife and a big bowl, you won’t hit the sides with your knife and the corn won’t bounce everywhere.
Corn for breakfast
Corn for lunch and dinner
When it comes to summer salads, corn rivals tomatoes for the title of most popular ingredient. It pairs well with nearly any other ingredient in a variety of flavor profiles. Chances are a kitchen-sink salad will turn out well with whatever you have on hand, but you can also take inspiration from these ideas:
- Kale Caesar salad with roasted corn and cornbread croutons
- Corn, avocado and tomato salad with honey lime vinaigrette
Corn for dessert
Sweet corn is called that for a reason — it’s sweet enough to be used as an ingredient in baked goods beyond cornbread and muffins. But if you’re not feeling up to baking in the summer heat, use corn in desserts that are cool and refreshing.