Tell me how to find a specific type of corn?
April 30, 2019 11:48 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a variety of corn that, after cooked, is starchy and chewy and not particularly sweet. I've heard it called "cow corn" -- which I assume means that some people think it's corn that's grown to be fed to cows? But where can I buy this kind of corn for human consumption? Do I have to hunt down a farmer or some secret farmer's market? Sometimes I've seen this corn in Asian grocery stores, but not always...
posted by mhh5 to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Are you looking for fresh? If you'll take canned, would the stuff sold as "Hominy" work?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 11:54 AM on April 30, 2019

Response by poster: If only I had a penguin, yes, I'm looking for fresh corn only... on the cob.
posted by mhh5 at 11:59 AM on April 30, 2019

I think the term you want is "field corn." It looks like it's more commonly eaten in Mexico. Is there a Mexican grocery store near you?
posted by FencingGal at 12:03 PM on April 30, 2019 [4 favorites]

I'd look at hispanic markets for dried hominy (here's some dried hominy for sale on Amazon).

A more hardcore option is dent corn or field corn (as opposed to sweet corn). Here's an example of raw dent corn on Amazon.

If you want a local connection, then you'll want to look for farms that grow corn for milling into corn meal, grits, etc.

NB: if you want to make field corn a major part of your diet, then you should know about nixtamalization and niacin deficiency. this what makes hominy different from raw field corn.

I'm looking for fresh corn only... on the cob.

On the cob? I don't think you'll be very happy with trying to eat field corn on the cob.
posted by jedicus at 12:05 PM on April 30, 2019 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Field corn, aka dent corn is the hard, flinty-kerneled corn that is grown primarily for animal feed and processing into food products. It's the only corn we had before sweet corn came into being around a hundred years ago. Prior to sweet corn, people would harvest unripe field corn and boil or roast it.

The first sweet corn variety was Golden Bantam, and if you're looking for a corny-tasting sweet corn that also isn't too sweet, that's what you want. That, or any of the sweet corn varieties - open-pollinated or hybrid - developed prior to the early 1980s, which is when the discovery of the sugary and sugar-enhanced corn genes led to the extra-sweet and super-sweet sweet corns that have replaced the old-style sweet corn. (Because people tend to prefer sweet, and the newer varieties take considerably longer to convert their sugars into starch, so you can eat them days after harvest and they'll still taste sweet.)

If you're looking for a compromise, a variety with the full corn flavor of the old-style sweet corns, but somewhat sweeter tasting without being overly sweet, look for Sweetie sweet corn seed. That was one of the first sugar-enhanced hybrids and it's still my favorite.

(I worked for a seed company in the 1980s. Back then I would've bored you to death with incessant lectures on sweet corn genetics and the wonders of modern plant breeding. A lot of the modern breakthroughs in breeding and hybridization in both food and ornamental crops started back then. For those of us in the business, it was such a thrilling time.)
posted by Lunaloon at 12:20 PM on April 30, 2019 [112 favorites]

I think the term you want is "field corn." It looks like it's more commonly eaten in Mexico. Is there a Mexican grocery store near you?

When that Wikipedia article says field corn is the most widely eaten kind in Mexico, it's almost certainly talking about the dried, nixtamalized kind that's called hominy in the US, and that's used to make dough for tortillas and tamales.

I have had fresh, un-nixtamalized field corn in rural parts of Guatemala. But it's not very common even there. It tastes faintly like unsweetened cornbread — not like tortilla chips the way hominy does — and has a starchy, chewy texture. My sense is it's a convenience food ("Huh, we're harvesting this field corn, and some of it's not dried out yet, and we need something for dinner tonight. I guess we'll eat this") and not really something that anyone sets out to grow for its own sake. I've never seen it for sale in the US.
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:22 PM on April 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

I've eaten unripe field corn cooked as you would sweet corn. It's tasty, but not ultra-sweet. The trick is to pick it at the right time, before the kernels begin to ripen and get starchy. Your best bet is to get to know a local farmer and buy right from the field. People in the Midwest call this "green corn".
posted by Agave at 3:12 PM on April 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

In Central California, where Mr. BlahLaLa is from, they called it "feeder corn" so that's another term you might try.
posted by BlahLaLa at 3:17 PM on April 30, 2019

Response by poster: Hmm. So where do I find "Sweetie Sweet corn" (I'm not interested in becoming a farmer myself)? Is there a way to know what variety of corn I'm eating? Or where to find where a variety of corn I like is grown? Lunaloon, If you're favorite variety is Sweetie Sweet -- how do you get it?
posted by mhh5 at 4:32 PM on April 30, 2019

Best answer: You're basically looking for choclo. Yes you can get it on the cob, usually frozen in the US.

You're in the Bay Area right? In the East Bay I'd expect to find it in one of the big supermarkets on International. You're more likely to find it in a store that caters more to South Americans (particularly Peruvians) than Mexicans.
posted by aspersioncast at 5:38 PM on April 30, 2019 [3 favorites]

Can you say a little more about where/what the "big supermarkets on International" are?
posted by AwkwardPause at 11:41 AM on May 1, 2019

Best answer: Ok, I think I figured it out — International Blvd in Oakland. I don’t know those places, but have found the Chaparral Supermarket in San Jose an excellent source for Peruvian goods.
posted by AwkwardPause at 1:05 PM on May 1, 2019

African maize.
posted by hugbucket at 4:40 AM on May 10, 2019

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