California, Washington


It seems that all food writers are required, at one time or another, to wax lyrical about the delights of a particular humble ingredient prepared in the simplest fashion. Now it's our turn.

For us, a just-boiled corn on the cob, speckled with freshly milled black pepper and rolled in melted butter is simply one of the greatest eating experiences available. Tinned or frozen corn can be tasty enough, but it doesn't compare to corn eaten straight from the cob, slathered with butter, when the crisp and succulent kernels explode with flavour in the mouth. There's no other food that regularly leaves us with burnt mouths because we can't wait for it to reach a reasonable temperature before tucking in.

If you fancy being a bit more creative, we've listed a number of alternatives to the basic corn on the cob treatment. But really, why bother?


Corn is a form of maize that has been cultivated since the nineteenth century. Maize (known as corn in the USA and elsewhere) has been an important foodstuff for thousands of years. It was eaten by Mexican and central American cultures as early as 3,400 B.C. and fuelled the Aztec Empire as well as the Mayan and the Inca civilizations.

It is widely thought that the Spanish brought maize back to Europe in the fifteenth century from where it then spread to east Asia and Africa. However this view does not go unchallenged and there is some evidence in support of an alternate theory (with far-reaching consequences for historians) that maize actually spread west from the Americas to Asia before it spread eastwards from Europe.

Corn gathered popularity in the UK after World War II and is now grown extensively across southern England.


Corn, a grass, is a form of the cereal crop maize (Zea mays), harvested at a young age while the kernels are tender and sweet. A corn ear is an inflorescence (cluster of flowers around a stem) and the kernels are the fruit of the plant (more specifically a grain).


Look for cobs with the husk intact. The husk should be green and fresh and conceal fine, silky threads. Kernels should be tightly packed, plump and smaller at the tips than in the middle (indicating young cobs). If buying from a market try to shop earlier in the day and avoid buying corn that has been sitting in warm sun - the rate at which the sugars are turned to starch increases rapidly with temperature.

After picking, the sugars in corn began turning to starch at a pace. As the point of corn is that it's sweet, keep corn cool and eat as soon as possible after picking - on the same day as purchase where possible. If keeping for more than a day, parboil the corn for a minute (this will help slow down the conversion of sugars) before refrigerating or freezing.

To boil, strip the husk and silk and trim the stems. Cook in unsalted boiling water (salt will toughen the kernels) until the corn yields to a fork tip (anything from 3 to 10 minutes or more, depending on the condition of the corn). Season after cooking.

To barbecue, soak the whole corn, with husks, in water for 10 minutes before cooking in the embers or over a moderate heat for 15 minutes or more, until toasted. Alternatively, soak the corn and remove the husk before brushing with a little oil and grilling.

To remove kernels from a corn cob, trim one end to produce a flat surface, stand the corn vertically on the flat end and cut down the length of the cob at the base of the kernels. Turn the cob and repeat until all kernels have been stripped. This is much easier to do after cooking.


If you were wondering where to buy a 6m high inflatable corn on the cob, look no further...