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English Sweetcorn/Corn-on-the-cob    Photo © Evie Saffron Strands

English Sweetcorn/Corn-on-the-cob

Photo © Evie Saffron Strands



Corn, or Maize, was domesticated in Mexico 7,000-10,000 years ago.  Originally barely the size of an ear of wheat, it was developed by Inca and Mayan farmers into the long, plump, cigar-shaped cobs we know today.  Within a generation of Spanish Conquistadors bringing it back to Europe, corn was being grown throughout southern Europe.  It was prized in southern Europe as a cereal crop for making cornbreads and turned into porridges like polenta in Italy, and pulientas in Spain. 


Initially in the UK, maize was valued only as a feed for poultry then, later, as something you could refine into cooking oil.  The liking for sweet corn-on-the-cob came late to British tables, influenced by the American taste for it.  Now, as the British climate warms, good corn-on-the-cob can be grown here to follow on from the French harvests we buy.


Sweetcorn should be cooked as soon as possible after harvest as its natural sugars quickly convert to starch.  Right now we are getting plump, sweet corn-on-the cob from Kent growers.    If you plan to boil your cobs, this should take up to 10 minutes, but remember not to add salt to the cooking water as the kernels will toughen.  


Whether you boil them or cook them on the barbecue, smothering them in butter or olive oil is a good idea, as is a seasoning of sea salt and, maybe, some chopped chillis to challenge the sweetness.  You can slather the warm cobs with crab butter or slice the kernels from the cob and make a crab and sweetcorn soup.  Alternatively, you could cream your sweetcorn: slice the kernels from the cob and place them and any juices from the cob into a small pan, add a knob of butter and a sprig of thyme, cover and cook on a moderate heat for about 5 minutes until the grains have softened then add salt, pepper, 2-3 tablespoons of double cream and top with a poached egg.