Sweet corn (Zea mays convar. saccharata var. rugosa; also called Indian corn, sugar corn, andpole corn) is a variety of maize with a high sugar content. Sweet corn is the result of a naturally occurring recessive mutation in the genes which control conversion of sugar to starch inside theendosperm of the corn kernel. Unlike field corn varieties, which are harvested when the kernels are dry and mature (dent stage), sweet corn is picked when immature (milk stage) and prepared and eaten as a vegetable, rather than a grain. Since the process of maturation involves converting sugar to starch, sweet corn stores poorly and must be eaten fresh, canned, or frozen, before the kernels become tough and starchy.
Sweet corn occurs as a spontaneous mutation in field corn and was grown by several Native American tribes. The Iroquois gave the first recorded sweet corn (called Papoon) to European settlers in 1779. It soon became a popular vegetable in southern and central regions of the United States.
Open pollinated varieties of white sweet corn started to become widely available in the United States in the 19th century. Two of the most enduring varieties, still available today, are Country Gentleman (a Shoepeg corn with small, white kernels in irregular rows) and Stowell’s Evergreen.