Also known as corn on the cob, sweetcorn is composed of rows of tightly packed golden yellow kernels, growing along a tough central core. When ripe, the kernels are sweet and juicy, and are best cooked simply, with a little butter. Like peas, the natural sugars in the kernels turn to starch quite quickly, which makes the kernels tougher and less sweet, so it should be eaten as fresh as possible.
In season mid August to mid September.
Choose the best
Sweetcorn still in its husk keeps fresher for longer. Look for kernels that are tightly packed, plump, shiny and golden yellow, and smaller at the tip than they are in the middle (this indicates a young cob). The husks should be green, unblemished and fit snugly. When sweetcorn is really fresh, the kernels will release a milky liquid when cut. Frozen sweetcorn is a good option when sweetcorn's out of season.
You can also buy baby sweetcorn. It is sweet but quite bland, and eaten mainly for its crisp texture.
Pull back the outer leaves of the cob to expose the kernels (you can either leave this husk still attached or cut it off, according to how you plan to cook it). Strip off any of the silky threads still clinging to the cob. Cut off the ends of the cob, then wash.
You can either serve the cob whole, or in chunks, but if you're doing the latter, it's best to slice them up after they're cooked, as the central core will be less tough.
If you want to cook the kernels loose, rather than on the cob, strip back the leaves and threads as above, stand the cob stalk-end down on a chopping board, then carefully sweep a sharp knife down its length, slicing off the kernels as you go. Try to keep the blade as close to the core as you can, so that the kernels stay whole.
Sweetcorn keeps best in the fridge, wrapped in damp kitchen paper and with the husks removed. Eat within a day or two.
Roast or barbecue the cobs (husks off, in foil 8-15 minutes; husks on, no foil 8-15 minutes; husks off, no foil 5-7 minutes). Always turn the cobs when cooking. Boil the cobs (3-6 minutes - don't use any salt as it will toughen them up). Boil the loose kernels (2-3 minutes). Stir-fry baby sweetcorn (1-2 minutes).