All those people at markets who tear back corn husks to expose the kernels (then toss the ears back for no apparent reason, leaving the corn to deteriorate) are practicing shockingly poor corn-buying etiquette, say hounds, who insist that it’s perfectly easy to find good ears without de-husking.
The selfish should note that this preserves the freshness of ears you yourself choose as well as those you’d otherwise have ruined for others!
ciaolette explains what to look for: The husks should be fresh and green, with no yellowing or dryness, and should sit close to the ear. The silk should be mostly green, with very little darkness. The cut stalk should be very fresh, not dried out. The ear should have good weight for its size.
Your editor, Caitlin McGrath, evaluates the kernels by running a finger up the outside of the cob to feel if they’re plump and uniform. Karl S points out that if you’re buying organic corn, there’s always a chance you’ll find a worm or some mold–it’s rare, but his smart solution is to always buy an extra ear, just in case.