Sweet corn (Zea mays convar. saccharata var. rugosa; also called sweetcorn, sugar corn and pole corn) is a cereal with a high sugar content. Sweet corn is the result of a naturally occurring recessive mutation in the genes which control conversion of sugar to starch inside the endosperm of the corn kernel. Unlike field corn varieties, which are harvested when the kernels are dry and mature (dent stage), sweet corn is picked when immature (milk stage) and prepared and eaten as a vegetable, rather than a grain. Since the process of maturation involves converting sugar to starch, sweet corn stores poorly and must be eaten fresh, canned, or frozen, before the kernels become tough and starchy.
Sweet corn occurs as a spontaneous mutation in field corn and was grown by several Native American tribes. The Iroquois gave the first recorded sweet corn (called 'Papoon') to European settlers in 1779. It soon became a popular food in the southern and central regions of the United States.
Young sweet corn
The same rows of corn 41 days later at maturity.
Open pollinated cultivars of white sweet corn started to become widely available in the United States in the 19th century. Two of the most enduring cultivars, still available today, are 'Country Gentleman' (a Shoepeg corn with small kernels in irregular rows) and 'Stowell's Evergreen'.
Open pollinated (non-hybrid) corn has largely been replaced in the commercial market by sweeter, earlier hybrids, which also have the advantage of maintaining their sweet flavor longer. su cultivars are best when cooked within 30 minutes of harvest. Despite their short storage life, many open-pollinated cultivars such as 'Golden Bantam' remain popular for home gardeners and specialty markets or are marketed as heirloom seeds. Although less sweet, they are often described as more tender and flavorful than hybrids.