No matter how it’s prepared, fresh sweet corn is a backyard barbecue must. Originally cultivated by American Indians, corn comes in a multitude of varieties, ranging in hue from white and yellow to blue and purple. Each variety contains a different combination of antioxidant phytonutrients; for example, yellow corn is richer in carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin, while blue corn has concentrated levels of anthocyanins. Fiber-rich corn is also a good source of B vitamins, vitamin C, folate, and manganese.
In the summertime, look for locally-grown corn at the market or farm stand, and select ears with fresh, green husks that aren’t dried out and that have moist golden silk. Kernels should be plump and in tight rows. Store unhusked corn in the fridge, but remember that it’s best when eaten within two days. To prep, peel off the husks, unless you plan to grill or roast the corn, and remove the silk. To remove the kernels for recipes, stand the ear in a bowl and slice away the kernels using a sharp knife and a sawing motion.
You can simply boil or steam shucked ears of corn for two to five minutes, but for a treat, try grilling it; this cooking method adds a lovely smoky flavor to sweet corn. Soak the ears in water for about 20 minutes before grilling them (silk removed but husks on) for about 15 to 25 minutes. Turn them occasionally, but don't worry if they begin to char a bit — the kernels will be caramelized and full of flavor. Alternatively, preheat the oven to 450 degrees and roast ears (silk removed but husks on) for 15 to 20 minutes.
Corn on the cob is delicious plain, or simply seasoned with butter or olive oil, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. For Mexican-style corn on the cob, slather cooked corn with mayonnaise, and roll ears in Cotija cheese, Parmesan or queso fresco; dust with chili powder and serve with lime wedges. For a simple but savory side dish, sauté corn kernels with diced red bell pepper, green chiles and onions. Or use corn kernels to add texture and sweet flavor to salads, guacamole, or soups such as chowder or chili.