Local Corn Is Here Early And BetterThan Ever
Growers around the state are reporting some of earliest sweet corn harvests ever – and the crop is looking real good. Chris Powell from Strasburg in Lancaster Co. reported they started picking corn about June 21, while JimPaulus from Mechanicsburg in Cumberland Co. said they have been picking corn for two weeks now. Both growers indicated they were expecting a good supply of quality corn for the coming weeks. In western Pennsylvania, Ron Beinlich in Monongahela, Washington Co., was harvesting corn by June 22, and Art King in Valencia, ButlerCo., startedhis harvest on June 24, about a week earlier than usual.
The unusually warm weather this spring allowed growers to plant earlier than most years and also pushed the crop along once it was planted. While there were some very wet periods in some parts of the state that may have interfered with planting schedules, the generally favorable weather during June has produced a very promising outlook for this year’s sweet corn crop. As a result, consumers can expect abundant supplies of Pennsylvania sweet corn at community farmers’ markets, roadside farm markets and supermarkets across the state this summer. Fresh, local sweet corn is the best tasting corn to be had.
Growers start planting corn about the middle of March under a clear plastic mulch. The warm moist environment under the clear plastic mulch is ideal for rapid seed germination and seedling development in cool March and April days. Some growers plant their seeds through black or green plastic mulch and cover it with row covers. Other growers go an extra step and start their corn in the greenhouse and transplant it to the field under clear plastic row covers supported by wire hoops. All these systems represent a greater investment for the grower in terms of time, equipment and supplies but enable the grower to hit the early market. Corn planted on bare ground without mulch or row covers generally matures two to three weeks later.
Irrigation is essential to a good corn crop in many years. The critical period for adequate moisture for corn is during silking and ear development. Traditionally corn has been irrigated by overhead sprinklers or large irrigation guns that cover a large area at once. Many sweet corn growers are now turning to trickle irrigation, which is the most water-efficient method of irrigation available. With this method of irrigation, a plastic tube with tiny emitters is laid down between every other rowof corn. Water and fertilizer are pumped into the tubes and trickles out to the roots of the sweet corn crop.
The key to great-tasting sweet corn is freshness. The sugar in sweet corn rapidly begins turning to starch within hours after being harvested. About 40 percent of the sugar can be lost in six hours at room temperature. Refrigeration slows this process, but the sooner corn is eaten after harvesting, the better it will be.
Most growers are growing sugar-enhanced or super sweet varieties that genetically have more sugar in the kernels. Some of these early sugar-enhanced varieties where developed at Penn State University. Because they have more sugar to begin with, they can be stored for longer periods and still have acceptable sweetness. However, standard sweet corn varieties, when purchased freshly harvested, will still have a delicious, traditional corn flavor and sweetness.
According to growers across the state, most Pennsylvanians prefer bicolor corn, traditionally known as Butter and Sugar. However, in south-central and southeastern Pennsylvania, white is thepreferredcorn. Certain localities and clienteles still like their corn to be yellow so many growers also grow some yellow varieties.
Sweet corn is one of the leading vegetable crops in the commonwealth with about 16,000 acres grown annually. About 95 percent of this sweet corn acreage is grown for fresh market sales. As a result, Pennsylvania ranks as the eighthlargest fresh-market sweet corn producing state in the nation. About 1,000 acres of the sweet corn acreage are grown to be processed into frozen or canned corn products available year around. Fresh corn will be available from late June into October.
While fresh sweet corn is a delicious ingredient in many recipes, it is most popular served right on the cob, and is so simple to prepare with these tips from Penn State Cooperative Extension. Simply boil husked ears for four to seven minutes in unsalted water – salt may toughen the kernels. If you prefer grilled corn, remove the silk from the ear but leave the husk on. Soak the ears for 10 minutes in cold water and then grill them for 15-20 minutes. To roast, remove the silk and husk from the ears, brush with melted margarine or butter and wrap in foil. Roast the wrapped ears for 15 to 20 minutes on the grill.
Fresh corn-on-the-cob is also easily prepared in the microwave by wrapping two huskedears in a damp paper towel and cooking them for seven minutes on high power, turning the ears once.
Many roadside farm markets offer larger quantities of corn for home freezing. PennStateUniversity offers detailed instructions at http://foodsafety.psu.edu/lets _ preserve.html, This information is also available at any Penn State Cooperative Extension office or by contacting the Pennsylvania Vegetable Marketing and Research Program at 717- 694-3596. Many general cookbooks offer detailed instructions and recipes as well .
T he following corn recipes offer other creative methods to enjoy Pennsylvania “Simply Delicious, Simply Nutritious” sweet corn. These recipes were entered in the 2011 Pennsylvania “Simply Delicious, Simply Nutritious” Vegetable Recipe Contest. Additional corn recipes are available at www.paveggies.org.
Colorful Corn Chowder
Serves 4 to 6
1/2 pound bacon, diced
1 cup finely diced onion
1/4 cup coarsely diced red bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cupspeeledandcoarsely diced potatoes
1 cup coarsely diced carrot s3 cups regular or low sodium chicken broth
4 cups sweet corn, reserving 1/4 cup for topping
3 tablespoons butter fresh pepper, to taste salt optional
In a medium skillet fry the diced bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon to paper towels and crumble when cool. Remove all of the bacon drippings except for 2 tablespoons. In the 2 tablespoons of bacon drippings, add the onion, red bell pepper and garlic. Cook 3 minutes over medium heat stirring continuously. Place this mixture in a large pot. Add potatoes, carrots, chicken broth and corn. Cook 10 minutes over medium-high heat or until the vegetables are tender. Add the milk and butter. Season with pepper and salt if desired. Reheat until hot. Serve in bowls and top with the crumbled bacon and reserved corn kernels.
First-place prize in the Sweet Corn Category was submitted by
Kenneth Ward of Hulmeville.
Fresh Succotash Salad
Serves 5 to 6
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 cup minced red onion
1/2 pound fresh green
beans, trimmed and cut in half
2 ears of fresh corn, removed from cob
1/2 cup fresh lima beans
2 tablespoon fresh
salt and pepper to season
Stir oil, lemon juice, honey, red onion, and salt and
pepper to taste together in
small bowl. Bring 2 1/2 quarts
water to boil in large
saucepan. Add 1 teaspoon
salt and green beans and
cook for 1 minute. Add corn
and lima beans and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.
Drain vegetables into colander and rinse under cold running water until cool. Drain
vegetables well and transfer
to serving bowl. Toss vegetables with dressing to coat
evenly. Stir in basil and season with salt and pepper. Serve.
This salad can be refrigerated
for up to 1 day. If making the
salad in advance, add the basil
just before serving.
Recipe submitted by
Kathy Rohrbaugh of
Curried Corn Chowder
1 tablespoon extra light
1 medium onion, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
1 large clove garlic, chopped
2 cans (14 1/2 oz. each)
low fat, low sodium chicken
1 cup chunky mild salsa
2 cups fresh or frozen
whole kernel corn
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
11/4 teaspoons curry powder, or to taste
1 cup finely crushed
baked tortilla chips (measured after crushed)
15- or 16-oz. can creamstyle corn
salt and pepper to taste
fat-free sour cream for
garnish, or low-fat plain
Heat oil in saucepan. Add
onion, celery and garlic; sauté
until onion is translucent.
Stir in broth, salsa, whole
kernel corn, cumin, curry
powder and tortilla chips.
Bring to a boil; cover and
simmer 5 minutes. Stir in
cream-style corn, salt and
pepper. Heat briefly. Garnish
each serving with a dollop of
sour cream. Submitted by
Francis Dietz, York
Kay’s Corn Fritters
6 ears of sweet corn
3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
Grate ears of corn into bowl,
scraping milk from ears with
knife. Separate 2 eggs into
yolks and whites. Beat
whites until stiff. Add egg
yolks to corn in bowl along
with flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir corn mixture until combined. Fold
beaten egg whites into corn
mixture until lightly combined. Melt butter in medium non-stick frying pan or
seasoned cast-iron skillet overmediumhigh heat. Add spoonfuls of fritter batter to frying pan to make approximately 3-inch fritters. Brown on one side, then turn to brown second side. Place on serving plate and sprinkle with sugar. Serve hot and enjoy. Submitted by Susan Rothenberger, Boyertown.
Quick buying tips for Pennsylvania Sweet Corn
The Pennsylvania Vegetable Marketing and Research Program offers these tips when buying sweet corn:
Lookfor fresh green husks andears that are filled all the way to the tip.
Kernels should be tender, full andfirmenoughtopuncture easily under the slightest pressure.
To preserve the corn’s sugar content and flavor, refrigerate immediately after purchase.