Corn has been developed into six groups with different specialisations:
Dent: Often called field corn, dent has a really thick outer skin making it unsuitable for eating as you would normal sweetcorn. It has a soft starchy centre though making it ideal for food manufacturing and animal fodder.
Flint: This variety has a very hard kernel coating that is ‘ as hard as flint’ but a soft starch interior (not as soft as Dent corn though). Thanks to its low water content, it can cope with freezing temperatures. It is mainly used in food manufacturing processes but is also a popular material for ornamental North American Thanksgiving decorations and can also be used for popcorn.
Flour: Flour corn has a thin coating and a soft starchy centre so is perfect to be used to make flour. Corn flour is an indispensable ingredient in many recipes.
Pod: Pod corn is probably the least known member of the corn family. This is a mutant that has leaves around each kernel and doesn’t have much use other than for ornamental purposes.
Pop: Best left to dry on the plant, this is a really fun crop to grow. The kernels are hard but its interior is at a moisture level of 14 to 20% which turns to steam when heated and causes the kernel to explode to 20 to 50 times its original size. The result is the ever-popular much-loved popcorn. Apparently people have been popping corn for thousands of years.
Sweet: For the home gardener, sweetcorn is the most interesting variety to grow, along with popcorn. This crop derives from a mutation that is responsible for turning sugars into starch, which is the reason why other corn varieties are left to dry on the plant whilst sweetcorn is eaten fresh in its immature “milk” stage which happens to be when it is at its sweetest.
On the negative side, it does not store as well as other corns so needs to be eaten or processed quickly before the sugars turn to starch. Freshly harvested corn will lose approximately 40% of its sugar through converting to starch when stored for as little as 6 hours at room temperature so it makes perfect sense to grow it at home.
Sweetcorn is a great addition to any diet as it is a rich source of vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin E and is high in fibre. Note that it isn’t recommended to add salt to corn during cooking as it can make it tough but a dash before eating it, with or without a little bit of butter, is always a treat.