I grew up on a farm where we raised sweet corn. When the cornstalks were tall and the kernels were young, we gathered corncobs in their tightly-wrapped husks. Their silks were dry and bristly. I recall the swish of leaves when walking between the rows of corn and the crisp snap of a corncob breaking from the stalk. It wasn’t a chore to gather corn for the supper table. The result was a platter of steaming hot, tender ears of corn slathered in butter. The particular variety of sweet corn we raised was called Kandy Korn.
Today, there are hundreds of varieties of corn, which come in many colors. However, the most common varieties are sweet corn, dent corn, flint corn, and popcorn.
Flint corn (Zea mays indurata) has a high nutrient value and gets its name from having a hard outer layer―hard as flint. This flint variety is resistant to freezing, tolerates drought, and favors the sandy soil of the Southwest. It is often dried and used to make hominy. One multi-colored type of flint corn is called Indian corn or calico corn.
Dent corn or field corn actually has a dent or dimple in the top of the kernel. It has a higher, softer starch content than flint corn. It is primarily grown as feed for livestock or the production of ethanol but can also be ground for flour, grits, or cornmeal.
Popcorn is a completely different variety―a special type of flint corn. Each kernel holds a tiny droplet of water tightly enclosed in a hard shell. When the hard kernels get hot, the water droplets inside get hot and turn into steam. Pressure builds up and―pop! The steam disappears into the air, leaving behind a pile of fluffy-white, crunchy snacks.
Although there are hundreds of kernels on an ear of corn, there is always an even number of rows.