Sweet Corn Flavor

By J. B. Jones, Master Gardener, Lamar County, Texas

The flavor of sweet corn is influenced by a gene that controls its sugar content. The seed corn you buy may have some special genes which are designated su, se, sh, shz, or SB. The very best flavor, or the flavor you want, is available if you pay attention to which of these genes your seed corn has.

The “su” gene is in the standard sweet corn you have grown through the years. It gives a rich corn flavor and the quality is best if it is isolated from field corn, picked and eaten in the same day. Silver Queen, a variety recommended for our area has this gene.

The “se” gene increases the original levels of sugars in the kernels, extends the flavor and slows the loss of moisture from the kernel. These varieties should also be isolated from field corn and have a slightly better flavor if isolated from varieties with the “su” gene. Kandy Korn, a very popular variety in our area, has the “se” gene.

The “sh” gene raises the levels of sugar further, again extending flavor and shelf life. The varieties with the “sh” gene are often called the “super sweets” or “extra sweets.”

The latest development in sweet corn varieties gave us the “SB” gene and these varieties are often called the “sweet breed.” They have an important characteristic. They can be planted near “su” or “se” types without losing flavor. However, they should still be isolated from field corn and varieties with the “sh” gene. High sugar content, long shelf life, good germination in cold soils and vigor characterize these varieties. Varieties with the “SB” gene are not readily available but the very, very similar gene “shz” is present in the All-American Selection, How Sweet It Is.

Check these sweet corn designations when you buy your seed and you may be better satisfied with the flavor.

This article appeared in the March 2001 on-line issue of Horticulture Update, edited by Dr. Douglas F. Welsh, and produced by Extension Horticulture, Texas Agricultural Extension Service, The Texas A&M University System, College Station, Texas.

Web page construction by Jill Stavenhagen.