Want to grow corn but don’t have the faintest idea of which varieties of corn to plant?
Corn is the most widely produced crop in the United States, and farmers have developed different corn varieties over the years.
Most US corn is harvested from fields in the Midwest, but who says you can’t grow your corn in your backyard?
Before understanding how corn is grown, it would be in your best interest to learn about different corn types.
Different Types of Corn
There are at least six known classifications or varieties of corn.
Some can fall under other classifications, so be careful about which ones share the same characteristics.
Let’s go over them one by one.
Dent corn, more popularly called field corn and sometimes also known as yellow dent, is named after the dent or dimple formation at the top of each kernel when the corn dries out.
We advise against eating dent corn on the cob because it is low in sugar and high in starch content.
It doesn’t matter how much salt, sugar, or butter you spread over a freshly-picked dent corn cob—it will taste bland!
We also consume dent corn in large amounts, but we just don’t eat it in its raw, unprocessed form.
We use dent corn to make processed food products, such as corn flakes and corn chips, and we also have plenty of industrial applications for it.
You can also find dent corn as the white or yellow kernels that comprise about 95% of the grains in most animal feed.
Also called Indian corn, flint corn has been in cultivation since before the time of Native Americans.
Flint corn gets its name from the corn kernels’ extra-hard outer shells, which resemble flint hardness.
Its cobs come in a wide range of colors, with each kernel having different pigmentations.
This type of corn is grown mainly in Central and South America, with the same uses as dent corn and popcorn.
With so many corn products out there, can you think of anyone who doesn’t know what popcorn is?
We all know that popcorn is the all-time best movie snack—you won’t find a cinema that does not sell it.
Popcorn is another type of flint corn.
Popcorn kernels have hard outer shells that hold soft starches inside.
When heated, the outer shell of each popcorn kernel converts its moisture to steam, which builds up pressure that makes the kernels pop and expand.
Flour corn has soft-shelled, starchy kernels, which make it the best choice for making corn flour.
Each kernel on flour corn is filled with soft starches, making it very easy to grind.
Most flour corn is white, but you can grow it in other colors, such as blue.
Unlike dent corn, which is harvested during maturity, sweet corn is picked during the milk stage, when the ears have not yet matured and dried.
Sweet corn is the type of corn that you eat on the cob, or you can freeze or can it for future consumption.
It is seldom used for livestock feed, industrial products, or flour because it has about 6% more sugar content than field corn.
Developments into sweet corn have created the following seedling types:
Standard (SU) corn seeds produce the oldest type of sweet corn. It contains more sugar and less starch than field corn.
SU sweet corn starts to convert sugar to starch after peak maturity, so you should harvest and consume it before this happens.
Sugary Extender (SE)
Sugary extender (SE) seeds produce corn with even more sugar content than corn grown from SU seeds.
This type of sweet corn can retain sweetness even after around three days since its harvest as long as you store them properly in the fridge.
Multi-colored SE corn is sweetest when the pigmentation intensifies on the kernels.
Supersweet (SH2) corn has up to 10 times more sugar content than SU corn.
With proper handling and refrigeration, you can store supersweet corn for up to 10 days.
SH2 comes from the word shrunken. The dried kernels of the supersweet corn have a shriveled, shrunken appearance because it has minimal starch content.
Synergistic corn varieties are combinations of SU, SE, and SH2 corns in different amounts.
Farmers have come up with these variations to retain the sweetness of corn while at the same time embedding high yield capacities and resilience traits.
Augmented supersweet corns combine the SE or SU genes on top of the SH2 in each kernel.
Portions of augmented supersweet corn can carry either the SE or SU traits, but the whole corn has the SH2 characteristics.
Augmented super sweet corns have tender kernels and do not require mechanical harvesting.
Pod corn, simply put, is mutated corn. It is not a wild ancestor of corn but a mutation of existing varieties.
As a mutation, small leaves, called glumes, surround each kernel on pod corn, making it difficult to process and prepare for different corn applications.
Farmers do not grow pod corn commercially, although some localities make preservations of the variety.
What is the sweetest corn variety?
In the US, the sweetest type of corn is the supersweet (SH2) variety.
To be sure you are planting the sweetest of corns, buy seeds in packets with the SH2 or supersweet label.
What is the most popular corn?
The most famous sweet corn varieties include the Silver Queen, the Butter and Sugar, and the Jubilee.
The Silver Queen and the Butter and Sugar varieties belong to the Standard (SU) types, while the Jubilee is a Supersweet (SH2) corn.
The Jubilee is known for its high yield capacity, tender yellow kernels, and sweet taste.
Defined by its mix of white and yellow kernels, the Butter and Sugar variety also maintains its popularity as sweet corn.
But people are more familiar with the Silver Queen for its large ears, sweet taste, and near-white kernels.
What is the best type of corn?
The best type of corn depends on the final application.
If you plan to grow corn at home for easy consumption like any vegetable, you should grow sweet corn.
Be sure to harvest sweet corn during the milk stage so that you could consume it at its maximum best.
You can also grow popcorn in your backyard. Choose the flint corn seeds, which produce starchy corn kernels with hard outer shells.
If you have livestock, you can create a unique animal feed after growing some dent corn.
Now that you know the difference between the corn we eat and what we process into livestock feed, you can choose which variety to grow at home.
To ensure you grow the exact variety you want, seed different corns several plots apart to avoid cross-pollination between certain types.
If you plant them closely together, expect to have a mix of characteristics between different corn types.