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Produce Profile by Mark "Guido The Gardner" ® Ferro
4th of July Corn!

The Italians have their eggplant, the Israelis have their fragrant melons, and we Americans have fresh corn. Lots of cultures use corn, but usually ground into a meal, but we have a particular hankerin' for Zea mays on-the-cob. So seeing as the calendar next week will explode with the Fourth of July, an All American holiday, what better veggie to highlight than corn!

This native of the Americas is an ancient plant. Folks have been chowing down on it for about 10,000 years. The first 5,000 of those years they ate what grew wild. Corn began as a wild grass plant, with the kernels being the reproductive seed. (Much like wheat or oats.) For the last 5,000 years people actually began growing it on purpose.

Let's time warp to the late 1940's. Up until then, all varieties shared a common and unfortunate characteristic. Namely, that the sugar in the kernel turned to starch as soon as the ear was plucked from the stalk. Within a day or so the creamy sweetness would turn to a starchy mouth mess.

But in the late 1950's the first variety of super sweet corn was available. Now this corn, by it's genetic makeup is almost twice as sweet as regular corn. (Or what my regular corn connection says ... cow corn!) Also, it can be held out in the field longer and can be stored off the stalk longer and still retain its peak flavor.

During the late 1970's, disco was dying but a new corn was born! This is what is called a "sugar enhanced" variety. It is not quite as sweet as the "supers" but does retain much of the creamy consistency and minus much of the crunchy bite.

So now that you know all of this, will you be able to read a box label to determine which corn field you are buying into? Regrettably, nay. Naturally the grower knows if his white, yellow or even bi-color falls under which of the three banners, but that's sometimes as far as it gets. Everything tends to be sold under the "super sweet" heading nowadays. Only your mouth can tell the difference. If it is good raw, cooking won't kill it. But bad corn never improves with cooking, unless you drown it in calories.

But short of tasting it, a good ear should be filled to the tip with plump, healthy looking kernels. The husks should be green with no signs of yellowing. The tassel should also look fresh, not black. Although they do take somewhat of a beating because corn is packed in ice.

And forget about all that junky salt and butter. That's a good disguise for bovine fodder, but good corn needs it not! An even easier way to cook corn is to toss it fully clothed into a plastic bag, add a bit of water and cook it in the microwave. Muy simple!

The new types of corn come in all models-yellow, white and bi-color (mostly yellow kernels) and prices will be cheap, as retailers love running corn specials, because folks love eating corn!

All these different types of corn bring up the question as to which color is the sweetest or best tasting. The answer is that the color makes no difference, as all three colors can be of the regular, sweet or supersweet varieties. The best way of picking good corn is too ask for a raw sample. If its tasty raw, it'll be likewise cooked.

Our current supply is coming from Corn Country California, Brentwood! There is a good supply from there as well as even some from the delta, and some as far south as Bakersfield. (Although their season is winding down.)

Enjoy your independence next week. In fact, I may even take the day off!

SUCCOTASH

First I need to make an apology. I made the following yummy dish last night, using a real recipe as a general guide. After I put my version of this dish together, I decided to include it in a future article. In order to do this I would have to make it a second time and actually pay attention to the amount of this and that. Unfortunately TODAY is the day that qualifies as the day to pass along this recipe....

I soaked either 12 ounces or a pound (I can't remember) of dried large lima beans in water overnight. I guess frozen or canned would work, but I just don't think the flavor or texture would be the same. I drained off the water and simmered half of them until they were tender, maybe 15-20 minutes. (The remaining half of the beans, soaked but uncooked, are still in my refer awaiting another undecided use.) I drained the cooked beans and put them in a mixing bowl. While the beans were cooking I had 4 ears of Brentwood white corn (with husks) microwaving in the oven for 10 minutes. You can also steam the ears if you like.

After they were cooked, and cooled!, I cut off the kernels from the cob and added them to the mixing bowl with the cooked beans. I then added about a half-teaspoon of hot chili powder and a cup of plain (not flavored) yogurt. That's it. No salt, pepper, nothing else. Two additions I'll make for the next time is to add some halved cherry tomatoes and some chopped Italian parsley for some color and flavor.

COULDN'T BE EASIER CORN-ON-THE-COB

This is an absolute failsafe method for grilling corn on the barby. Take it from the bag or the refrigerator and place it directly on the grill. No shucking the husks, no de-silking the silks, no soaking in cold water (OK, maybe if you really want to bathe it a bit!) If the fire is medium to high turn the ear a bit every 5-10 minutes until the whole husk is charred. This will take 20 or so minutes. The outside will be badly burned but the inside will still be golden. And remember, good corn needs NO butter, NO salt and NO nothing, except maybe for a toothpick afterwards!