If you’ve been watching the news you may think there will be no sweet corn harvest this year due to extreme heat and drought across the “corn belt” of the United States. When I turn off the tv and head to the Boulder Farmer’s Market, I find Munson’s farm stand overflowing with large, vibrantly green ears of fresh peaches and cream corn. I asked one of the farm stand workers how their season is going, and he said it’s going to be a bountiful harvest. Though our dry summer in Colorado has been marked by fires and drought, Munson farm reports their access to irrigation water and the warm weather ensured a “long fruitiful season.” This makes me wonder, are big agriculture is feeling the devastation of parched crops more than the smaller operations selling at farmer’s markets? Corn prices at the farmer’s market in Boulder are unchanged from last year, and the corn is just as gorgeous as ever. So this week at la Domestique, we celebrate sweet corn as ingredient of the week.
Corn is also known as maize, originating from the Native American word, mahiz. Harvested in mid to late-summer, the crop requires a long season of sun, water, and fertilizing. Here in Colorado, corn season really hits its peak in August. Reading The Produce Bible I learned how critically important it is to buy freshly harvested corn, because “corn loses 25% of its sugars within 24 hours of harvest.” The freshest corn comes from farmer’s markets and farm stands, not the grocery store. Look for plump, heavy ears with vibrant green and shiny husks. The silks should be fresh and glossy. Bursting with juice and shiny, the kernels may vary in color depending on the variety: yellow, white, or a combination of the two. It’s fun to seek out heirloom varieties and compare their flavors – sweetness isn’t everything – balance in sweet and actual corn flavor is key. Get the corn on the table as soon as possible – within the day is best. Otherwise, I go with Alice Waters’ recommendation of wrapping the ears of corn (husks still attached) in a damp kitchen towel and placing them in the fridge for no more than two days. Corn can be prepared on or off the cob, eaten fresh in salads and salsas, or cooked by boiling, grilling, or sautéeing. Save salting the corn until just before serving, as salt toughens the kernels during cooking. You’ll find creative recipes for cooking with corn here at la Domestique on 10 Ways Tuesday. See you then!