LITCHFIELD -- It’s been a tough year for growers, but folks who look forward to summer’s bounty of fresh, local sweet corn, won’t be disappointed.
“It’s seriously fabulous,” said Carly Mosnicka, whose family owns McQuesten Farm in Litchfield.
Unpredictable weather, which seems to be the new normal in the Granite State, can take a toll on local crops, and this year, the weather has been all over the map, said Lea Devriendt of Devriendt Farm in Goffstown.
“Vegetables like consistency,” Devriendtw said. “If it’s warm, they speed up their growth and if it’s cold, they slow down.”
Because of the variability in the weather — especially the dry month of July — the tips on a lot of the ears of corn never filled in, so there are five or six rows at the top of each ear that have no kernels.
The lack of full growth doesn’t impact the flavor, said Devriendt, who buys her corn from McQuesten, but it does impact sales.
“No matter what they tell you, people buy food with their eyes,” she said. “We’ve become spoiled and expect food to not only taste perfect, but to look perfect, and sometimes, that just doesn’t happen.”
The simple trick to buying corn that tastes good, said George Hamilton of the UNH Cooperative Extension, is buying it fresh and not holding onto it too long. You can tell corn’s been off the stalk too long, or hasn’t been kept in ideal circumstances, if the kernels are dented due to moisture loss. And the older the corn is, or the hotter the temperatures it’s stored at, the faster the sugars within each kernel convert into starch and the less sweet it becomes.
“Sweet corn is highly perishable, and should not be stored for more than about three to five days,” said Hamilton.
Mosnicka said the secret behind the fabulosity of McQuesten’s sweet corn is that it’s hand-picked first thing in the morning while there’s still a bright, golden haze on the meadow, and treated with the care it deserves.
“Regardless of whether (the weather has) been dry or not, it’s an excellent year for eaters,” said Hamilton. “The extremely fresh locally-picked sweet corn is outstanding.”
Perfection on the cob
For perfect corn-on-the-cob, a little bit of steam, some butter and salt is all you need, said Lea Devriendt of Devriendt Farm in Goffstown.
“A lot of people overcook their corn,” she said. “I tell them it’s already dead, you don’t need to kill it.”
Devriendt said to fill a pot with two or three inches of water and set it on the stove to boil. Shuck the corn and add it to the pot when the water is boiling and let it steam, covered, for five or six minutes. Remove it from the pot, smear it with real butter, she said, and a little bit of salt.
Sweet Corn and Edamame Salad
2 ears of fresh sweet corn
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
8 oz frozen shelled edamame
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper
Shuck the corn and then steam in two to three inches of boiling water for 5-6 minutes. Let cool, then slice off the corn kernels with a large knife. Cook the edamame according to package directions and let cool. Mix corn, tomatoes and edamame in a large bowl. Whisk together the lime juice and olive oil, pour over the corn mixture and toss. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Savory Summer Succotash
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped red onion
Coarse kosher salt
1 large garlic clove, minced
3 cups chopped red tomatoes
2 1/4 cups raw sweet corn kernels cut from 4 ears of corn
2 cups fresh or frozen (and thawed) baby butter beans or lima beans
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sprinkle with coarse salt. Sauté until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and stir constantly about 1 minute. Add tomatoes, corn, and lima beans. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until corn and lima beans are tender and tomatoes are soft, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
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Nancy Bean Foster may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.