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What are Some Different Types of Corn?

Ken Black
Ken Black

There are many different types of corn, with the two most common types being sweet and field corn. Within these two main groups are many distinct and separate varieties, which are often categorized based on the shape of the kernel. Each variety has its advantages and disadvantages: some are bred for particularly high yields, while others are bred for their taste, and still others are bred for a particular shape. There are also specialty corns, some of which are grown mostly for experimental use or for decoration.

Sweet Corns

Field corn can be used for making starches and adhesives.
Field corn can be used for making starches and adhesives.

Sweet corns are those that can be eaten by humans. The most common types are standard sugary, augmented sugary, shrunken, and brittle. There are also supersweet varieties that have been bred to be much sweeter than regular ones and to have a longer shelf life than other varieties. All of these have a distinctive kernel shape, with a very sugary top covering the hard bottom of the kernel, which holds the germ. Farmers choose which varieties to plant based not only on taste, but also on local conditions: some work better in windier conditions, for example, while others are good for short growing seasons.

Field Corns

Multicolored corn is known as Indian corn.
Multicolored corn is known as Indian corn.

There are also many varieties of field corn, with the most common being dent, flint, flour, and waxy. The kernels of each of these types all have unique features. For example, flint varieties have a hard outer layer that protects the entire kernel, while dent corns have dents in the crown of each kernel when it is fully ripe and beginning to dry. The kernels of flour corns are mostly made up of starch, and have a very thin outside. Waxy ones have a unique genetic structure that makes them very useful for making starches and adhesives.

Specialty Corns

Popcorn has a closed-in kernel that allows it to explode when heated.
Popcorn has a closed-in kernel that allows it to explode when heated.

Within these broad subdivisions there are a number of specialty corns, including those with colored kernels, popcorn, and corns that are bred to have particularly high levels of certain nutrients. Blue corn, a type of the flour variety, is one of the most well-known specialty corns, but there are many other types, including multi-colored corns known as Indian corns, which are actually a type of flint corn.

An ear of sweet corn.
An ear of sweet corn.

There is also popcorn, which has a distinctive closed kernel shape that allows moisture to build up until the kernel explodes, making it edible. Varieties have been bred for nutrition, texture, and even specific shapes of the popped kernel. There are also many other varieties that have been bred to be particularly high in a certain component, like lysine or amylase. These are often made for a particular purpose: for example, high-lysine corn is bred to fulfill the nutritional needs of pigs.


Field corn can be used for livestock feed.
Field corn can be used for livestock feed.

In general, most of the world's harvest is made up of field corns. These can be used for livestock feed, for making alternative fuel, alcohol, solvents, and even fibers. One variety, pod corn, is used almost exclusively for decoration, since each kernel is encased in a hard covering that makes it difficult to use for other purposes. Since pod corns are also very similar to primitive varieties, they're commonly used for research purposes.

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Discussion Comments


Those are the different types of kernels.

There are lots of different types of corn but most of what we eat now is made up of two or three types of corn that became popular in the last century.

For example, my favorite type of corn is Golden Bantam which is a yellow, sweet corn. But it's not the most popular corn anymore and there aren't many farmers growing it.


@fify-- I'm not sure but since it's not sweet, I'm guessing it's either dent corn or the corn we use to make popcorn.

Corn is native to the Americas and it was introduced to other regions of the world later. Maybe the people there liked the taste of dent corn better and decided to cultivate that.

My dad grows corn in Iowa and he does grow dent corn as well. But we don't eat any of that, it's used for animal feed.


Has anyone had corn in the Middle East or in Southeast Asia? Do you know the name of the type of corn they eat in these regions?

I had both boiled and grilled corn on the cob when I was in the Middle East but the corn they have there is not sweet. It still tastes like corn, there is just no sweetness to it whatsoever. I've also had corn from an Indian grocery store and that corn was the same, it wasn't sweet.

I'm just curious to know what type it was because I can't find it here in the States. All the corn at the grocery store is sweet corn.


@lightning88 - I'm not sure about grilling it, although I suspect all you do is slap it on the grill for a few minutes and that's all.

We always boil our corn on the cob. The best way to do it is to use the freshest possible sweet corn, as it starts to lose its flavor the moment it comes off the stalk. Best corn I ever had was when we grew it ourselves.

Just shuck the corn and throw it into the pot of boiling water (cut it up if you want smaller pieces). Fish it out again after a few minutes when the corn turns a brighter color. It doesn't really hurt to boil it longer than it needs. It takes a while for corn to go mushy on the cob.

Whatever you do, don't use frozen cobs. Those will be mushy no matter how you cook them.


@anon140877 - I totally agree. I love the smell of fresh popcorn, there's nothing like it. I think it's better if you make it yourself on the stove though, rather than making it in the microwave with one of those pre-made packs.

Something I thought I would share is making kettle corn on the stove. I always thought this would be quite difficult, but it's really simple when you get down to it.

Heat some cooking oil in a pot, adding three popcorn kernels. When the kernels pop, pour in a single layer of kernels and wait for them to start popping. The second one of them pops, add some sugar to the pot. Then, let the rest of them pop, being careful to shake the pot so they don't burn.

Thee you go, perfect, crunchy kettle corn.


i really like eating popcorn, especially sweet corn. And i love their smell while cooking them.


What are the best tips for grilling corn on the cob? And what kind of corn should I use? I am supposed to be hosting a big pot luck, and somehow I got stuck with corn on the cob, even though I really have no idea how to cook corn on the cob.

I mean, I assume you grill it, right? Or am I off? Can anybody help me out?


I always love using different kinds of corn when I cook. Though the varieties with bigger, juicier kernels are better for grilled corn, I tend to prefer using smaller-kerneled varieties for casseroles and plain old creamed corn because they tend to taste sweeter, I think.

When it comes to cooking corn on the cob though, I love using multi-colored corn.

It just looks so much more colorful, and you really get to see the different colors of the kernels when they stay on the cob instead of how they mix all together after you take them off with the corn cutter.

What are y'alls favorite corns to use, and what do you use them for?


What would you say is the best type of corn for corn stoves? I am considering getting a corn stove, and I really have no idea what kind of corn I should be putting in it.

I'm assuming that you don't use cooking corn for it, but what kind of corn do you use?

Also, I read that some corn stoves take corn silage. What is that, and what kind of silage should I put in my stove?

Thanks so much for the info!

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    • Field corn can be used for making starches and adhesives.
      By: Dusan Kostic
      Field corn can be used for making starches and adhesives.
    • Multicolored corn is known as Indian corn.
      By: 22 North Gallery
      Multicolored corn is known as Indian corn.
    • Popcorn has a closed-in kernel that allows it to explode when heated.
      By: HandmadePictures
      Popcorn has a closed-in kernel that allows it to explode when heated.
    • An ear of sweet corn.
      By: rimglow
      An ear of sweet corn.
    • Field corn can be used for livestock feed.
      By: Jenoche
      Field corn can be used for livestock feed.