The Best Way to Select and Store Corn

Update: 11/3/2013

From a food safety standpoint, we recommend selection of corn that has not been exposed to any substantial amount of heat. Exposure to excess heat can increase the susceptibility of fresh corn to microbial contamination.

If you are shopping in the grocery store, your safest bet is corn that is being displayed in a refrigerated produce bin. Next safest would be corn that, while not refrigerated, is still being displayed in a cool store location, out of direct sun and not near a heat source.
These same recommendations apply for corn in a farmer's market or roadside stand. Here display of corn in the shade and out of direct sunlight can be important from a food safety standpoint.

Look for corn whose husks are fresh and green and not dried out. They should envelope the ear and not fit too loosely around it.
To examine the kernels, gently pull back on part of the husk. The kernels should be plump and tightly arranged in rows.

Due to changes that have occurred over time in commercial corn production, corn has become a food where quality is especially important. Over 70% of all corn found in U.S. grocery stores has been genetically modified in the form of herbicide-tolerant, or HT corn, or the form of insect-resistant, or Bt corn.  

(Bt corn gets its name from the transfer of a gene from the soil bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis, into the corn. A protein toxin produced by this bacterium helps to kill certain insects that might otherwise eat the corn.)

While there is no large scale human research on GE corn and its health impact, we share the concern of many researchers about the introduction of novel proteins into food and their potential for increasing risk of adverse reactions, including food allergies.
One way to avoid these potential GE risks is to select certified organic corn, since GE modifications are not allowed in certified organic food.
While not a "Dirty Dozen" food in terms of pesticide residues as evaluated by the U.S. Environmental Working Group (EWG), non-organic, conventionally grown corn has repeatedly been shown to contain organochlorine pesticide residues. In one study, 19 different pesticide residues were found on samples of conventionally grown corn.
Like potential GE risks, potential pesticide risks can be avoided through selection of certified organic corn.
Traditionally to enjoy the optimal sweetness of fresh corn, it was recommended to eat it the day of purchase. New varieties allow you 3 days to still enjoy its full flavor.
Store corn in an air-tight container or tightly wrapped plastic bag in the refrigerator if you do not intend to cook it on the day of purchase.

Do not remove its husk since this will protect its flavor. Fresh corn freezes well if placed in heavy-duty freezer bags. To prepare whole ears for freezing, blanch them first for five minutes depending.

If you just want to freeze the kernels, first blanch the ears and then cut the kernels off the cob at about three-quarters of their depths. Frozen whole corn on the cob will keep for up to one year, while the kernels can be frozen for two to three months.

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