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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sweet Corn vs. Field Corn

One of my favorite summer time foods is sweet corn! Nearly every year since I was a little girl my family has had our own sweet corn patch on our farm. Sweet corn is the type of corn people typically grow in their vegetable gardens. It can even be grown year round in some warm weather climates. This type of corn is harvested when the kernels are immature and still in the milk stage, and is used primarily for human consumption. Families all across the world have several different choices when consuming sweet corn. Many may prefer it fresh right off the cob, from a can, or even frozen. It's even the third leading vegetable used for processing following potatoes and tomatoes. Over 700,000 acres of sweet corn are grown in the United States each year for both fresh market and for processing. This statistic makes the U.S. both the leading producer and exporter of sweet corn! 700,000 acres may seem like a lot of corn, but sweet corn production really only accounts for roughly 1% of the corn produced across the country.

If you've taken a drive lately through much of the Midwest, you more than likely may have noticed the many corn fields, often stretching for miles along the highways. Field corn, also known as dent or feed corn, makes up more than 90% of the corn you see growing in the fields. So what makes this corn different than what ends up on my dinner plate? Well, field corn is hard on the outside and starchy on the inside, unlike sweet corn . While most often considered a food for animals, it can be found in many products you use everyday! After the corn is harvested, it is usually stored at a local grain elevator or on a farm's bin site which not only stores the corn, but also dry it to protect the quality of the kernels. From storage, the corn is taken to many different places depending on what it is going to be used for. Some corn is taken to feed mills where it is made into livestock feed. A lot of the corn produced in the U.S. today also goes to ethanol plants so that it can be made into fuel for people to use, plus the corn can also be sent to barges on local rivers where it travels down the rivers to be exported and eventually end up in other countries. The rest of the corn is sent to various processing plants where it can be made into various types of household products. Many of which you might never have thought of. For example, did you know corn was used to make crayons, chips, vitamins, paint, plastic is also used as a food ingredient in the form of corn cereal, corn starch, corn oil and corn syrup!

Next time your on a road trip this summer, ask your friends and family if they know the difference between sweet corn and field corn...

Happy Summer!


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