While fresh tomatoes are often synonymous with summer, so is sweet corn. I have many childhood memories surrounding sweet corn, and I am sure that most people do as well. Grow Appalachia participants and gardeners everywhere spend time and energy growing this precious crop even though it requires expensive seed, takes up a lot of space, can be blown over by the wind, only produces two ears per plant, and requires us to race the raccoons and coyotes to the harvest. Why do we go to such efforts? We love corn, always have, always will. What is more satisfying that walking through a dewy corn patch, breaking off a perfectly full ear, pulling back the shuck, and seeing beautiful golden rows all lined up for our lunch?

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Beautiful corn grown by Grow Appalachia participants Coburn and Phyllis Turner, August 2013

My parents continue to sell sweet corn at a road side stand on their farm, as they did when I was growing up. When I was young, this stand consisted of an old hay wagon or picnic table covered by one of those blue and white striped canopies that you had to piece together (oh the wonders of the new “pop-up” canopies!). My dad would pick the corn early in the morning and put it on the ground underneath the shade tree, outside of the fence surrounding our yard. To keep the corn cool and fresh we would spray it down with a water hose, which was one of my favorite things to do. My parents always paid my siblings and me a small amount for working on the farm because they wanted to break the stereotype that there isn’t any money in farming (which apparently worked since all three of us are currently involved with agriculture). Part of the way we were paid was by hauling loads of sweet corn to re-stock the stand. This chore consisted of loading ears of corn into our little, red, toy wagon, counting how many dozen we loaded up, pulling the wagon to the stand, stacking the ears on the table, taking any old or bad ears off of the stand, and retrieving the money from inside the honor system coffee can (leaving the correct amount for customers to make change inside). For this service we were paid 10¢ a wagon load.

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Incredible (variety name) sweet corn ready to be cooked!

Due to our corn stand business we had more corn that we could eat. I’m pretty sure that some summer lunches consisted solely of corn on the cob.  That being said, I only ate corn three ways prior to living (and cooking) on my own: boiled corn on the cob, grilled corn on the cob, and corn cut off the cob and froze for the winter. Those are three delicious ways to eat corn, but I have found quite a few more ways to mix it up and highlight the glory that is fresh (or frozen) sweet corn.

  1.  I’ve noticed that I am served over cooked corn all time. Over cooked corn still tastes good so many people don’t even realize that they are cooking it too long. However, corn cooked for slightly less time tastes even better, and it retains more of the structure of the kernel and nutrients. If you want to boil corn on the cob, place your shucked and de-silked ears of corn into a pot of boiling water for 5-10 minutes-no longer. I usually cook mine for 8-10 minutes and it is always done enough for me.  Pull ears out of the water, rub with a stick of butter, sprinkle on some salt, and enjoy!
  2. If you have had grilled corn on the cob, or corn over a camp fire, you know it is the best. Martha Stewart (yes, I love her recipes…) gives simple instructions for grilling the perfect ear. If you want to spice this up you can always slather the ears with cilantro butter.


    Working in a Grow Appalachia participant’s corn patch during June 2012

  3. PMSS Grow Appalachia is hosting a potluck tonight and I am going to bring this “burst tomato galette with corn and zucchini”. I’m obsessed with galettes; they sound and look fancy, but they aren’t. These easy to make “tarts” can be filled with vegetables and cheese to create a savory meal or filled with fruit for dessert. Don’t let the fancy name scare you away, I really mean it when I say that these are simple to make and they always impress even the pickiest adult eaters.
  4. Corn fritters are another easy way to use corn. These fritters freeze well for later meals.
  5. One of my favorite dishes is roasted butternut squash with sautéed corn and thyme.  Or leave out the squash and substitute basil for thyme (this has been my go-to side dish all summer). Herbs pair extremely nicely with corn, who knew?
  • Simply peel a butternut (or other winter squash variety) in half, scoop out the seeds using an old canning jar lid (this trick really works), chop into inch sized cubes, toss cubes with olive oil, and roast in a 425°F oven until tender.

Jenny Williams demonstrates how to EASILY remove seeds from winter squash using an old canning jar lid during the September 2012 Grow Appalachia Healthy Cooking Workshop.

  • In the meantime, boil ears of corn for 10 minutes. Remove ears from water, run under cold water to stop the cooking process, cut corn from cob.
  • Melt butter in skillet. Saute chopped onion until tender, add chopped garlic, add cut corn and roasted butternut squash cubes. Add fresh or dried thyme, salt, and pepper to taste. Serve it up!