Picture yourself on a nice cool night driving down the interstate when you get a sudden rumble in your stomach. You’ve just realized that you forgot to eat dinner before you endured on your journey. However, you are surrounded by cornfields so you’ll just pull over and grab an ear, right?
This corn that you so commonly see if referred to as “field corn.” Field corn is used for livestock feed, ethanol production, manufactured goods and as a food ingredient in the form of corn cereal, corn starch, corn oil and corn syrup. It is not edible to humans in its current form. It is also known as “dent corn,” because each kernel has a small dent on the end of it. Field corn accounts for more than 99 percent of the corn acreage in the United States. This corn is the type that you will see in bins or flats and most often stored at grain elevators. As far as the geography of corn goes Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska and Minnesota account for over 50 percent of the corn grown in the U.S. Other major corn growing states are Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin, South Dakota, Michigan, Missouri, Kansas and Kentucky. Also, Corn is produced on every continent of the world with the exception of Antarctica.
The delicious salted buttery corn you are thinking of is most commonly called “sweet corn.” Sweet corn is consumed as a vegetable and makes up less than 1 percent of all corn grown in the U.S. each year. This corn has more of an “about to pop” look to it and is not dented at all. It is usually boiled or grilled and then lathered with butter and salt, and is a notorious Midwestern summer snack. Sweet corn is said to be most delicious eaten straight off the cob, (which I agree with) but is also cut and bagged or canned a good amount of the time. Over 700,000 acres of sweet corn are grown in the United States each year for both fresh market and for processing. This may seem may seem like a lot of corn but it is less than 1% of all corn grown in the U.S. each year!
As far as the history of corn goes, it is native to the Americas. The earliest known evidence of domesticated corn is 8000 B.C. in what is now the Rio Balsas region of Mexico, grown by ancient Indians. Indirect evidence suggests corn may have been domesticated even earlier, perhaps 10,000 years ago! It makes me happy to know people have been enjoying this scrumptious snack for this long.
Next time you’re driving down the road next to a big open cornfield, remember the difference between what you’re seeing (field corn) and what you’re eating (sweet corn) ..
ICMB social media intern
BONUS VIDEO!! – Differences between sweet corn and field corn