The Season for Sweet, Sweet Corn

It’s corn time, people! Sweet, sweet corn time. A couple weeks ago when I spotted the Peter’s Pumpkins and Carmen’s Corn stand at the Kingfield Farmers Market, I gasped and shimmied over as quickly as my flip flops would carry me. I snatched up six ears and to my surprise, received a gentle admonition from the owner, Peter Marshall, as he handed it to me: “Now this is good and sweet, but it’s not as good and sweet as it will be in a few weeks.” I’m not sure why I was surprised. I ought to know by now that Mother Nature takes her own sweet time and does things her own sweet way, with little regard for urban corn fiends like me.

According to Marshall, there is 62-day corn, 78-day corn and 82-day corn. The latter is sweeter, but must be planted later in the season when the soil is at least 65 degrees or it will rot in the ground. Like any good farmer who stands behind his product, Marshall wanted me to know what I was getting and why. I bought the corn anyway and it was tasty, but I was determined to go back for the big guns. I couldn’t get that 82-day corn off my mind.

This is why I love farmers markets. Every time I go, it’s different. Every time I go, I learn something new. One week when I asked for a dozen eggs, I was offered a pack of 18 adorable small ones from young chickens instead. Who knew immature chickens lay small eggs? It makes sense, but I had never really thought about it. The next week I was smitten by the mysterious and delicious garlic scape and had the growth cycle of the garlic clove explained to me (with visual aids!). The following week I learned about corn and the why's and how's of its varying degrees of sweetness from Peter Marshall. Today I got a refresher course on corn and learned more about the Marshalls’ 40-acre farm in Shakopee, Minnesota. There is something so genuinely lovely about chatting with someone about his or her life’s work for a few minutes as your basket gets heavier and heavier with the fruits of that work. I’m consistently charmed by these knowledgeable, passionate, talkative farmers who invest so much thought, sweat, experience and probably a fair amount of finger crossing in order to bring us beautiful, fresh, whole foods.

The 82-day corn is now ready, and according to Marshall, it’s a banner year. When I asked him what variety it was, he gave me a sly smile and said it was a secret. They discovered the variety nine years ago, fell in love with it and have stuck with it ever since. Marshall was disappointed that I had already purchased sweet corn before I talked to him, so he pressed some gorgeous cucumbers on me to try. They were also selling a dazzling array of cut flowers, squash blossoms, beans, peppers, cabbage and zucchini (to name a few).

I realize some may consider it blasphemous to eat sweet corn any other way than right off the cob, whether your method be straight across, like a typewriter, or around, like a pencil sharpener. But some nights you just feel like gilding the lily and taking something simple and making it ever so slightly less so. After all, isn’t summer all about slowing down, putzing around the backyard and the kitchen and taking time to enjoy its abundance?

The Marshalls’ 82-day corn really is spectacularly sweet and toothsome, so I was glad to have bought enough to eat on the cob with plenty left over to use in the Corn Farro and Goat Cheese Salad I had been wanting to try. The salad is a great way to turn your side into a meal and could be changed up to absorb whatever is most seasonal and fresh. The nutty, chewy farro is a perfect counterpoint to the sweet corn and the tangy goat cheese with a little Dijon kick pulls it all together and makes it sing. I am also including a recipe for Crunchy Spiced Oven-Roasted Corn from Peter’s Pumpkins and Carmen’s Corn because it sounds deliciously decadent – like some serious, off the hook, lily gilding. Enjoy!

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Corn, Farro and Goat Cheese Salad – adapted from Bon Appetit

1/2 cup semi-pearled farro or spelt berries

3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

8 ounces boneless skinless chicken breast

12 ounces green beans, trimmed, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces

2 cups fresh yellow corn kernels (cut from 2 to 3 ears of corn)

3 green onions, thinly sliced (about 3/4 cup)

1 Tablespoon minced fresh marjoram

1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar

2 Tablespoons minced shallot

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

4 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled (about 1 1/4 cups)

Cook farro in medium saucepan of boiling salted water until just tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain; cool.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in heavy medium skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Add chicken to skillet; cook until golden brown and cooked through, about 8 minutes per side. Cool, then cut into 1/2- to 3/4-inch cubes.

Cook green beans in large saucepan of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Drain. Rinse under cold water to cool; drain. Transfer beans to kitchen towel; pat dry.

Mix farro, chicken, and green beans in large bowl; add corn and green onions.

Combine remaining 2 Tablespoons oil, marjoram, and 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt in small bowl. Press with back of spoon to release flavor. Whisk in vinegar, shallot, and mustard. Pour over salad in bowl; toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

DO AHEAD: Salad can be made one day ahead. Cover and chill.

Divide chilled or room-temperature salad among plates. Sprinkle with goat cheese.

Note: I skipped the chicken and substituted parsley and chives for the marjoram because that’s what I have growing outside. A little finely chopped jalapeno would be a nice addition. And some cubes of crispy pancetta wouldn’t be terrible either.

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Crunchy Spiced Oven-Roasted Corn via

½ cup mayonnaise

¼ cup minced scallions

2 Tablespoons chili powder,

2-3 cloves garlic (pressed)

1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon salt

6 ears corn (shucked)

4 cups fresh breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In medium bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, scallion, chili powder, garlic, lemon juice and salt. Brush mayonnaise mixture evenly over corn, then coat corn thoroughly with the breadcrumbs. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown and crisp.



Gabriela Lambert is a frequent contributor to Simple, Good and Tasty. Her last post for us was Finding Blueberry Magic at Rush River Produce. You can also read more of her writing on her blog: