Sweetcorn is one of summer's simplest, purest pleasures. A common food memory in many cultures, from steamed cobs with butter and salt in New Zealand, to chargrilled with a creamy cheese topping with coriander and lime in South America, to a spicy grilled version in India, corn eaten on the cob is a shared experience around the world.
Corn or maize came from the Americas but is now grown throughout the world. The majority of corn or maize grown globally (over 95%) is used for stock feed or processed into products like cornmeal, corn syrup and even biofuel. The sweeter flavour of the variety we enjoy in New Zealand known as sweetcorn is relatively new, only becoming a popular vegetable in the 1960s, and accounts for a tiny proportion of the total world corn production. What makes our local version sweetcorn and not maize is a naturally occurring recessive mutation of the genes which controls the conversion of sugar to starch inside the corn kernel.
In New Zealand, Gisborne and the Hawke’s Bay grow a lot of sweetcorn because of both the climate and the proximity to processing plants where it is frozen or canned.
A Kiwi favourite and mainstay on café menus, corn fritters are made all the better with the addition of fresh sweetcorn in season! But there is a lot more you can do with these cobs of sweetness when they are bursting with flavour in the summer months.
Char on the grill and try serving with innovative flavoured butter or spiced salt combinations such as chipotle lime or pesto Parmesan as a seasonable side. Add to or hero in a salad or salsa with complementary flavours like avocado, tomato, lime and coriander. Sweetcorn puree is incredibly easy to make, resulting in a creamy sauce which complements a range of proteins including chicken, scallops, prawns and pork belly.
Or play up their natural creaminess and sweetness and create a dessert! Seldom seen in New Zealand restaurants but much more common around the world, sweetcorn lends itself well to creamy desserts such as made in-house ice cream, crème brûlée or pannacotta.