Fresh Local Corn Is Coming On Time
Growers across the state expect to have sweet corn by the traditional benchmark date of July 4 or shortly thereafter. While fresh local corn is about five to seven days behind last year, last year’s warm spring weather brought in sweet corn and other vegetable crops extra early. Some southeastern Pennsylvania growers started picking in late June, with Chris Powell in Lancaster County reporting his first picking on June 25 and Don Newhard in Lehigh County started on June 28. Growers in western Pennsylvania and the northern half of the state are expecting their first harvests after July 4 – most expected to begin no later than July 10.
The cooler weather earlier this spring slowed the crop down and some early plantings were injured by the frost in mid-May. Otherwise, growers reported that the crop looks good – Newhard reported their crop looks excellent with extra long ears. They irrigated their crop three times to keep it growing full speed through some drier periods this spring.
If the weather continues to be favorable, consumers can expect abundant supplies of Pennsylvania sweet corn at community farmers’ markets, roadside farm markets and supermarkets across the state throughout 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 row of corn. Water and fertilizer are pumped into the tubes and trickle 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 supersweet 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 the preferred corn. 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 15,000 acres grown annually. About 95 percent of this sweet corn acreage is grown for fresh market sales. As a result, Pennsylvania ranks as the ninth-largest fresh-market sweet corn producing state in the nation. A small portion of the sweet corn acreage is grown to be processed into frozen or canned corn products available year around. Fresh corn will be available 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 husked ears 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. Penn State University 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.
The following corn recipes offer other creative methods to enjoy Pennsylvania sweet corn. These recipes were entered in the 2013 Pennsylvania Vegetable Recipe Contest.
Home Style Corn
Fritters with Basil
Makes 16 small fritters oil for pan frying
3/4 cup fresh or frozen corn
2 eggs, beaten until foamy
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
4 teaspoons pesto salt and pepper to taste melted butter or low fat sour cream or fat free yogurt, optional toppings
Combine all ingredients. Heat enough oil in skillet to cover bottom. Drop batter by heaping tablespoonsful into hot pan. Cook on both sides until golden brown. May be brushed with melted butter or served with a dab of sour cream or yogurt.
Frances Dietz, York
Corn Quinoa Salad
2 cups cooked corn
1 cup prepared quinoa
1/2 cup chopped red pepper
1/4 cup chopped green olives
1/2 cup diced celery
2 scallions minced
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup wine vinegar
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons taco seasoning mix
Combine all the salad ingredients (corn, quinoa, pepper, olives, celery and scallions). Then combine all the dressing ingredients (oil, vinegar, water and taco seasoning) in a bowl or bottle. Make sure the seasoning mix is well blended into the other ingredients. Pour dressing over salad and chill for at least 2 hours before serving.
Vicky Sokoloff, Fleetwood Corn Gazpacho with Fiery
3 cups fresh corn, blanched or 3 cups frozen plus 2 tablespoons
1 1/2 cups fresh tomatoes, peeled, plus 1 tablespoon
3 tablespoons onion, chopped plus 1tablespoon
1/2 cup red bell peppers, chopped plus 1 tablespoon
1/2 cup green bell peppers, chopped plus 1 tablespoon
1/2 cup cucumber, peeled and seeded plus 1 tablespoon
1 cup V-8 or vegetable juice
4 teaspoons Tabasco or hot sauce, separated salt and pepper to taste
2 slices bread, cut into small squares or 1/2 cup stuffing cubes
1/4 cup salted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon lime juice
Reserve two tablespoons of corn and one tablespoon each of tomatoes, peppers, onion and cucumber for garnish. Place remaining cups of corn, tomatoes, onion, peppers, cucumber, V-8 or vegetable juice, and two teaspoons of Tabasco in a blender. Pulse until it reaches desired consistency. Salt and pepper to taste. Pour into serving bowls and chill for about an hour. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Place bread cubes on a cookie sheet and toast bread until golden brown. Toss cubes to brown all sides. While bread is toasting, mix softened butter, two teaspoons Tabasco and lime juice together. Toss toasted bread in butter mixture. Return croutons to oven and bake until golden brown. Garnish the bowls of gazpacho with reserved vegetables. Add croutons. Serve.
Corn on Cob
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 small clove garlic, pressed – optional
1 teaspoon fresh snipped parsley
1 teaspooon fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Salt and pepper – to taste
4 ears corn, shucked
In a small bowl combine butter, garlic, parsley, basil, thyme, salt & pepper. Rub corn generously with butter mixture. Wrap each ear in heavy aluminum foil. Place corn on grill over medium heat. Grill 10 to 15 minutes or until tender, turning frequently. Serve immediately.
Pearl Martin, Brownsville
Quick buying tips for Pennsylvania Sweet Corn
The Pennsylvania Vegetable Marketing and Research Program offers these tips when buying sweet corn:
Look for fresh green husks and ears that are filled all the way to the tip.
Kernels should be tender, full and firm enough to puncture easily under the slightest pressure.
To preserve the corn’s sugar content and flavor, refrigerate immediately after purchase.