Farmstands groaning with freshly picked corn are a welcome but fleeting summer sight. So when the season’s on, grab plump ears whose husks are fresh and green, not dried out. Kernels should be plump, never shriveled; you can often feel that plumpness through the husk. Try to buy corn locally, ask when it was picked (ideally, that morning), and eat it as soon as possible. If you must delay, refrigerate it no longer than a day or two in its husk in a plastic bag to help retain moisture and flavor.
“Yellow corn is said to have fuller flavor than white corn, but I think Silver Queen, a traditional white variety, is one of the best,” says Alan Tangren, at Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, California. He also says that some of the new supersweet hybrids don’t taste as rich as older varieties. The upside to the new hybrids, though, is that they still taste sweet a day or two after being picked and shipped to markets.
Slice fresh corn off the cob and toss it raw into tomato salads or salsas, bean salads with garlicky vinaigrettes, or soft polenta. Boil husked ears in unsalted water for a scant minute. Or grill corn in its husk over a hot fire until the outer husks have completely charred; shuck and slather with butter, plain or mixed with some lime juice and chile powder.