Edible Red Corn on the Cob

by Susan Russo
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redcornNotice anything unusual about this corn? No, it's not some nifty Photo-Shop-Curves technique. It's real red you're seeing. That's no ordinary ear of corn. That's an ear of edible red corn.

In the U.S. we typically refer to colored corn as "Indian corn" since Native Americans were the first people to grow corn in the New World. When European colonists came to the New World, they referred to corn of all colors as "Indian corn" to differentiate it from other grains such as wheat and rice. Over time, white, yellow, and bi-color corn replaced colored corn in people's diet, and colored corn became ornamental.

So what makes red corn red? Like red pomegranates and purple grapes, red corn derives its color from anthocyanins, or health-promoting antioxidants. This means that it's both more visually appealing and healthier than traditional corn.

As for texture and taste, red corn has slightly crunchier kernels and an earthier flavor. That's why in this recipe for Red Corn with Cilantro and Cotija Anejo Cheese, I added a touch of sugar. Acidic lime, salty Mexican cheese, and savory cilantro add complexity without masking the corn's unique flavor.

This red corn is from Henry's Marketplace, a popular market here in Southern California, but you might find heirloom varieties of corn at organic markets such as Whole Foods or online. If you ever find it, I definitely recommend trying it. And if you don't like it, then just dry it and hang it on your front door.

Red Corn with Cilantro and Cotija Anejo Cheese
Serves 2

2 ears of red corn, kernels removed from the cob
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon lime juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons crumbled cotija anejo cheese**
1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro

Cut off the corn kernels. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt olive oil. Add corn and sprinkle evenly with sugar. Saute for 2-3 minutes, or until lightly browned. Add lime juice and salt & pepper. Cook an additional 1-2 minutes and remove from heat. The corn should be cooked through yet still firm. Sprinkle with cotija anejo cheese and cilantro and toss gently until well combined and serve immediately.

** Cotija anejo, a mild-flavored Mexican cheese with a crumbly texture, can be found in Mexican markets or in the refrigerator section of most major supermarkets. Queso fresco, another mild Mexican cheese, is a good substitute and also can be found in most major supermarkets.

Note: This dish can be made with traditional white, yellow, or bi-color corn, though you many want to omit the sugar.

Click here for a quick tutorial on safely and easily removing corn kernels from the cob.


Susan Russo is a free lance food writer in San Diego, California. She publishes stories, recipes, and photos on her cooking blog, <Food Blogga and is a regular contributor to NPR’s <Kitchen Window. She is also the author of  Recipes Every Man Should Know and The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches.

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