People often consider those tiny little strings that resemble fine hairs on corn on the cob as a nuisance when cooking and eating this food. Corn on the cob is a food enjoyed generally during the summer months when it is in harvest. Every ear of corn comes with these silky strings within the corn husk, and removing these strings is often a monotonous endeavor.

How it Works

When farmers grow corn, both male and female flowers, or sexes, grow on the same corn plant. This is where the silky strings come from. The female components, within the plant, cause silk to grow out of the ear of corn. As the silk grows, a tassel begins to come out of the top of the corn stalk. The tassel is the male part of the process and the strings are the female part.


Each individual kernel of corn produces one silk strand. Pollen forms in the tassel of the corn and is released. The wind takes the pollen to other nearby plants. This pollen works its way into the female parts of the corn and fertilizes these parts. After a strand of silk is fertilized, a kernel of corn will grow and develop. Many ears of corn are missing very few, if any, kernels. If kernels are missing, this simply means that the ear was not fertilized completely.

How to Remove the Strings

Although the strings are edible, most people prefer to remove as many of them as possible before cooking the corn. To remove these strings, peel the husks off of the corn all the way and snap the stem off. When peeling the corn a great deal of the strings will usually come off during this process. After you peel the ear of corn, remove as many of the strings as possible with your hand. Rinse the corn under cold water, rubbing it and removing any more strings that are still remaining on it.

Cooking the Corn

Boiling corn on the cob is the most common way of cooking corn. To do this, peel the corn and place in boiling water for about 10 minutes. Another common way to cook corn is to grill it. Many people grill it in the husks; others first remove the husks and place the ears directly on the grill.