Corn Identification

Corn (Zea mays), known as maize in Europe and many other nations, is divided into candy corn cultivars, most often developed by home gardeners, commercially developed grain or field corn, corn and ornamental corn. Field corn is used for corn goods and animal food. Forty percent of field corn is used to make ethanol alcohol, used as an additive in petrol.


Corn is an annual that will grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 9. Sweet corns cultivars are divided into the ones that mature early, from 65 to 70 days, the ones that need from 70 to 80 days and the ones that take 80 days or longer. The early maturing varieties are better adapted to northern climates with shorter growing seasons. Heat waves and unpredictable rain caused by climate change threatens to do great harm to America’s corn harvest, according to the Climate Central site.

Sweet Corn

Normal sweet corn, or “su” type, is the traditional, sweet corn. Genetically modified, sugary-enhanced (se) sweet corn is sweeter and more tender than conventional sweet corn and retains its flavor and quality longer. The kernels are about the same size as regular sweet corn plus they germinate almost as well in the same problems. These varieties typically taste better if grown separately from typically sweet corn. Super candy (sh) corn, occasionally called extra sweet, has genetically altered light, wrinkled kernels. The sh gene produces the corn sweeter by slowing down the conversion of antioxidants. The kernels keep their moisture for long periods, extending the corn’s storage life. Super candy corn will retain its qualities if exploded separately from other sweet corn kinds.

Field or Grain Corn

Field corn is thick and tall. The stalks are smaller and leaves bigger and heavier than on sweet corn; sweet corn stalks seem short and spindly by contrast. Field corn cobs are bigger than candy corn, and their kernels are bigger and a darker yellow. The main kinds of field corn are dent corn, flint corn, flour corn and waxy corn. Dent corn contains a pronounced dent at the end of the kernels. The kernels turn to starch from the exterior to the interior, forming a dent as inside turns into starch. Flint corn kernels have a hard exterior layer of starch and shrink uniformly. Flour kernels have a thin layer of hard starch surrounding a soft starch inside. The kernels of waxy corn have a waxy appearance when they’re broken or cut.

Popcorn and Ornamental Corn

The ears, stalks and leaves of popcorn (Zea maize var. Everta) look like grain corns, but are smaller. Popcorn has a higher ratio of hard starch. When warmed, the starch expands quickly until the skin of the kernels explodes, causing an extension of 15 to 35 percent in volume. Ornamental corn might have purple or red leaves and stalks and ears which might have colorful combinations of yellow, red, blue, purple, purple or green kernels.

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