Depending on where you live or set out on vacation to this summer, you may see a lot of corn stretching toward the sky as you travel to work, to school, or maybe you wouldn't even know what a corn plant looked like if you reside in the city. Let's equip you with corn know-how when selecting the right kind in the kitchen!
A glossary of corn:
- Dent Corn—this is the primary type of corn in Wisconsin and across the world! Its kernels offer both soft and hard components. When the kernel dries down, the soft starchy part in the middle shrinks, causing the dimple, or dent in the kernel. We mostly see yellow varieties, but they come in a rainbow of colors. We grow an open-pollinated variety of white dent corn that is excellent for grits and tortillas.
Flint Corn—contains a very hard starch that retains its texture in cooking, is great for coarse cornmeal or polenta. Popcorn is also a type of flint corn.
Flour Corn—these kernels are primarily comprised of the softer starchy component. We grow an open-pollinated variety of blue flour corn that is great for tortillas and corn flour uses, such as corn bread and Johnny Cakes.
Grits—are a coarsely ground white dent corn used to make a porridge very popular in the American South. When you see it labeled as hominy grits, it means that it’s been nixtamalized like masa harina to remove the hull and make it more digestible.
- Polenta—is coarse stone-ground yellow flint corn. It’s used to make a porridge that can be eaten loose and creamy or set into cakes to be grilled or pan-fried. We thought we were biased, but y'all have told us that we have the best polenta you've ever tasted!
- Cornmeal—stone-ground cornmeal is sifted to be finer than polenta and grits. It's comprised of more of the flour portion of the corn or a flour corn can be selected for this application.
Cornstarch—aka corn flour—a refined product made from the ground endosperm of the corn kernel, is primarily used as a thickener.
Masa—is dough made from corn that has been nixtamalized*. Masa can be used to make tortillas, tamales, sopes, and other corn-based foods. Masa harina is a dried flour made from masa dough.
*Nixtimalization is the process of cooking and soaking corn in lime before grinding to create a bio-available (high in Niacin or Vitamin B3) and pliable dough. Note: Simply adding water to corn flour does not produce a dough, a chemical change takes place when you introduce the corn to an alkaline solution like lime.
Hominy—kernels of corn that have been cooked in the nixtamalization process which loosens the hulls from the kernels and softens them for eating. The alkaline process corn undergoes to become hominy means it won't sprout when stored which was very important in ancient times. The nutrient Niacin can be assimilated by the digestive tract rendering it more nutritious.
- Sweet Corn—this kind is best consumed on the cob with butter, salt and pepper or dressed up as Mexican Street Corn during the summer with friends and family (and a toothpick)!