Thursday, August 4, 2016

Vegetable Feature: Sweet Corn

By Andrea Yoder

     There’s always some excitement around sweet corn, after all it is a classic summer vegetable loved by most!  Farmer Richard enjoys the challenge of growing “the best” sweet corn, a delicate balance between choosing a variety with good genetics, one that will perform under challenging field conditions, and one with good corn flavor and just the right balance of sweetness and tenderness.  No small task!
     There are many varieties of sweet corn, but not all are created equally.  First, we do not grow any GMO sweet corn.  We opt to use organic or untreated seed and rely on newer “sugar-enhanced” bi-color hybrids, many of which are recommended to us by our knowledgeable seed rep.  These varieties start sweet and have tender kernels.  Early in the season we look for a variety with the ability to germinate in cold soil.  We do what we can to help it along by planting the seed fairly shallow on a sunny day.  The first 24 hours are critical to success so we rely on the heat of the sun to warm the soil.  This tactic, in Farmer Richard’s words, gives the seed the “kiss of life” and just enough heat and encouragement to germinate the seed.  The other tricky part of choosing an early season variety is that most varieties we have trialed don’t taste that great.  We’re happy to have found two delicious varieties this year, Sweetness & Nirvana.
     It’s important to keep sweet corn cold.  After the corn is picked, sugars will start to convert to starch.  Keeping corn cold will slow this process down, preserve the quality and sweetness and give you a few more days to enjoy it.  Another reason we plant the sugar-enhanced varieties is because they have a slower rate of conversion of sugars to starch.   Despite the fact that you see people selling and transporting corn out of the back of a pickup truck, this is not the best tactic.  We take ice to the field when we harvest it, ice it again when it comes in and store it in the cooler until we pack it and load it on a refrigerated truck.  We do what we can to grow the tastiest corn for you, but you need to do your part too!  Take a cooler with you when you pick up your box, store it in the refrigerator and eat it within a few days.
     While eating it off the cob is a special summer treat, fresh corn can be enjoyed in so many other ways.  Cut it off the cob and add it to summer vegetable salads, salsas or relishes.  Stir fresh corn kernels into cornbread batter, make fritters or try the recipe for sweet corn pancakes.   It’s also good in summer vegetable chowders and light soups.  If you cut the corn off the cob, don’t discard the cob.  Add it to soups or stock where it will impart a delicious corn flavor.

Sweet Corn Pancakes

Yield: 16-silver dollar size pancakes
½ cup yellow cornmeal
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
2 oz sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 egg, beaten
½ cup buttermilk
1 cup fresh corn kernels
2 Tbsp minced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp finely chopped jalapeño, optional
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh herbs (oregano, basil, parsley, thyme, etc)
Vegetable oil, as needed

1.  In a small mixing bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add grated cheese and mix just enough to coat the cheese with the flour mixture.

2.  In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the egg and buttermilk until well combined.  Stir in the cornmeal mixture along with the corn, onion, garlic, jalapeño (if using) and fresh herbs.  Stir just until all the ingredients are mixed well.
3.  Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat.  Add just enough vegetable oil to lightly coat the pan.  Drop the pancake batter in small spoonfuls into the hot skillet.  Cook for about 2 minutes or until the underside is golden brown.  Using a spatula, flip the pancakes and cook on the other side until it is golden brown.  Remove the pancakes from the pan and hold them in a warm place until you finish making the remainder of the pancakes.

4.  Serve warm as a side dish or as the main part of a meal.  They are delicious for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Serve with a dollop of sour cream or fresh salsa if desired.

Recipe by Andrea Yoder

Charred Corn Salad with Mint, Parsley and Cilantro

Photo from Food & Wine website
Yield: 4 servings

4 large ears of corn, shucked
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
½ small onion, thinly sliced
2 ½ Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tsp pure maple syrup
1 jalapeño, seeded and thinly sliced
3 Tbsp torn mint leaves
3 Tbsp torn parsley leaves
3 Tbsp torn cilantro leaves

1. Heat a large grill pan or an outside grill.  Brush the corn with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Grill over moderately high heat, turning, until crisp-tender, about 12 minutes.  Let cool.

2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the onion and lime juice and let stand for 10 minutes.  Stir in the syrup, jalapeño and 2 Tbsp of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

3. Working in a large bowl, cut the kernels off the cobs in sections.  Add the onion dressing and toss.  Add the mint, parlsey and cilantro and toss again.  Serve warm.

This recipe is the creation of Chef Yotam Ottolenghi.  
It was featured in the September 2012 issue of Food and Wine magazine.

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