Is there any way to tell by looking if the ears of corn you’re buying are going to taste sweet? Are white varieties automatically going to taste sweeter than yellow ones?

According to raytamsgv, the color of fresh corn doesn’t tell you very much about its sweetness. Instead, it’s the plant’s genotype that determines how it tastes. Different varieties of corn start out with different amounts of sugar, raytamsgv explains. Varieties designated “su” (such as the popular Silver Queen) are traditional varieties with a moderate amount of sugar; they must be picked at just the right time and eaten right away or they’ll lose their sweetness (as soon as corn is picked, its sugar begins converting into starch). Sugar-enhanced “se” varieties, such as Bodacious and Kandy Korn, start out with more sugar, and are more forgiving regarding the timing of picking and eating. “sh-2” varieties are the sweetest, with massive sugar and a long shelf life. “I don’t really like them,” says raytamsgv. And just to be extra confusing? Each variety (su, se, and sh-2) has yellow, white, and bicolor variations.

Check out CHOW’s Recipes for Fresh Summer Corn for ideas of what to do with this seasonal treat.

Discuss: White or Yellow?

Photograph of CHOW’s Tomato, Tomatillo, and Corn Salad recipe by Chris Rochelle /

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