Why Silver Queen Corn Is Worth the Wait

In late summer, we welcome its arrival with open arms and ready plates.

silver queen corn
Photo: Photography: Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Torie Cox

This article is an ode to Silver Queen corn. Part taste, part nostalgia, we have a love of this hybrid corn variety in the South. We wait every summer, scouring farmers' markets and roadside stands, for its appearance, asking for it by name. It's increasingly hard to find and only available for a short time, so what makes Silver Queen the best?

What Is Silver Queen Corn?

Rows of uniform, tender white kernels seem to glow inside bright green husks. The juice from the corn is milky and creamy, making it eminently suitable for a variety of recipes. There's no better type for creamed corn, but simply prepared, with a melting pat of butter and dusting of salt, the flavor truly shines.

With a stack of yellow corn and a stack of white Silver Queen offered in a market, the hands seem to direct themselves to the sweet side, often picked over quickly for the plump, long ears. The yellow corn is only second best.

We associate white corn with a sweeter flavor in the South, partially because of the types that successfully grow in our area. Silver Queen was immensely popular after it was developed in the 1960s, word of mouth making it in demand from South Jersey to Florida, all along the East Coast. June to October, it arrived with the slower pace of summer life.

The problem with Silver Queen is that it loses its sweetness quickly. In fact, within hours of picking, the sugar content begins to turn to starch, making it best right after harvest.

This isn't a valuable characteristic for a crop needing to be sent to grocery stores or anywhere that requires shipping, so other sweet varieties have become more popular for farmers looking for a longer shelf life. Still, the mystique of Silver Queen remains.

What Makes Silver Queen So Good

Aficionados claim the sugar content to be just right, new varieties losing their corn taste with too much sweet taste. Others appreciate the quick cooking time for the tender kernels. Whatever the reason, Silver Queen has die hard fans. In part, it's due to fond memories.

The taste is reminiscent of summer. Southerners of a certain age flash back to meals of fresh vegetables, full of peaches, shelled peas. and corn. Throw in some fried chicken on top of all that farmed goodness, and it's as close to a religious experience as can be found out of church.

The best way to eat Silver Queen is right from the rows in the field, plucked from the eight foot-high stalks. Pulling open the green husks and wiping away the silk, you can bite right in, not waiting for any preparation. The sweet taste of corn will form your own memories of summer, so be careful. Silver Queen is getting increasingly rare. If you find it, you've found a real Southern treasure.

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