Sweet Taste of Summer

Open-pollinated sweet corn is a cut above the rest.

| Summer 2013

  • It's hard to imagine summer without corn on the cob. No summer picnic would be quite complete without fresh sweet corn served buttered, salted, peppered or plain.
    Photo by Andrew Weidman
  • Sweet corn belongs to a family of at least six different types of corn. The rest of the family includes popcorn, dent(field or grain), flint, flour, and waxy corn, plus an ornamental family member called pod corn.
    Photo by Andrew Weidman
  • Maintaining absolute purity in a corn line requires growing a plot of at least 200 stalks of seed corn in an extremely remote location ( at least a half mile from other corn) or else attempting the painstaking task of hand pollination.
    Photo by Andrew Weidman
  • Open-pollinated heirloom corns are vital building blocks for future breeding programs. Most heirloom growers agree that hybrids just don't have that special indescribable corn flavor they have come to cherish.
    Photo by Andrew Weidman

Enjoy garden-fresh sweet corn in this recipe for Maude Bachman's Deep-Dish Corn Pie.

 

It’s hard to imagine summer without corn on the cob. No summer picnic would be quite complete without fresh sweet corn, served buttered, salted, peppered
or plain. I remember when corn on the cob, corn fritters, or deep-dish corn pie would be on the menu every day for weeks when the corn was in.
No matter if you boil it, steam it, grill it, or roast it in wet burlap, you just can’t beat sweet corn’s fresh-from-the garden flavor. Also, let's not forget cut corn, cream-style corn, dried corn, and corn pudding served throughout the year.

Sweet corn belongs to a family of at least six different types of corn. The rest of the family includes popcorn, dent (field or grain), flint, flour, and waxy corn, plus an ornamental family member called pod corn. A kernel’s starch is what makes each type of corn different from the others, except for pod corn, which has little papery husks around each kernel. Sweet corn doesn’t convert sugar to starch very well, at least compared to other corn types; that’s why sweet corn kernels shrivel as they dry. It’s also what makes sweet corn taste, to put it simply, sweet. Most people are familiar with the three most famous types, yellow, white and bicolor (a mix of both colors), although there are also red, black and multicolored varieties.



To be fair, flint, flour and dent corns can all be used as roasting ears if they’re picked in the “milk stage,” when a punctured kernel produces a milky juice. They may not be as sweet, but they definitely have a delicious corn flavor. Native Americans roasted green field corn for corn on the cob; and I’ve also eaten roasted early harvest field corn many times. Often, city folk in the early 20th century ate it too, without even knowing their sweet corn was actually field corn picked at just the right time for optimum sweetness. New Yorkers in the early 1900s ate ‘Adams Early’, ‘Extra Early Adams’, and ‘Adams Improved’ early sweet corn without knowing they were really buying dent/field corn.

A New world crop






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