• Last modified 20 days ago (July 4, 2024)


Another Day in the Country

A connoisseur of sweet corn

© Another Day in the Country

We were in town and saw a stand advertising sweet corn. When it comes to corn on the cob, we are like honeybees drawn to the flowers. We can’t resist it.

“Corn?” I said. “And it’s not even the Fourth of July.”

My sister slowed the car. We were contemplating.

“Do you think it’s any good?” I asked.

My sister shrugged, “I don’t know. Do you want to give it a try?”

By this time, she was a few feet from the stand. She stopped.

“I’ll get it,” I said, climbing out with my billfold.

Within minutes, I was back in the car with a dozen ears of sweet corn, and we were headed home.

You know how in the Christmas poem about Santa and his reindeer it gets to the part where the kids are all snug in their beds “while visions of sugar plums danced in their heads”?

Well, sweet corn is our version of sugar plums! All the way home, we were thinking of popping that fresh corn into a kettle of hot water and having roasting ears for supper.

By the time we pulled into the yard, our heads were on other things.

We’d just come from a plant sale where we found a whole bunch of unusual plants for a dollar a pot.

I splurged and bought 20 potted plants. Some of the names I’d never heard before. These weren’t the normal fare for a weekend gardener — names like zinnia, petunia, coleus, and marigold.

They were unusual plants, shade plants, annuals, house plants. They were “take a chance on these” plants. The season for exotic is short-lived.

So, instead of eating corn for supper, we planted until dark. It wasn’t until the next day that we remembered the corn.

“I’ll make a salad. You fix the corn,” my sister said, “and we’ll have lunch.”

A few minutes later, we sat eating our first roasting ears of the season.

My sister asked, “So, what do you think of the corn.”

I already had devoured two ears and started on my third.

“It’s OK,” I said, “but in my opinion this is not fresh, locally grown corn. It tastes more like refrigerated, flown-in-from-Mexico corn.”

My sister shook her head sadly and concurred.

Truth is, for most people, the corn we ate would be called good. Slather it with butter, add enough salt, and it would be OK.

If you always bought your corn from a supermarket, you wouldn’t know the difference, but I’ve grown corn, and I know what fresh sweet corn tastes like.

I have unusually high expectations for a simple ear of corn.

I’ve tried growing my own several times since coming back to Ramona. It’s a lot of work if you don’t want to share with the wildlife.

Some years it was OK, but I finally just gave up and planted tomatoes.

There’s a saying, “If you can’t grow corn, cultivate your neighbor who does,” or something like that.

So, every year, I watch for a sign to go up saying our local farmer has corn for sale. We buy several dozen ears and celebrate.

I’ve long been a Garrison Keillor fan, having listened to his stories on public radio for years and read most of his books.

He tells stories about life in the country — people in small towns, living their unique brand of existence in rural America — part fantasy, part truth.

In his book, “Leaving Home,” he tells of his family butchering so many chickens that he thought he’d probably never be able to enjoy fried chicken again and that he’d become a dedicated vegetarian.

His family decided to have just vegetables for dinner.

“We put on a pot of water to boil … picked three dozen ears of sweet corn, raced home to the boiling water, put in the ears, and had a wonderful vegetable dinner along with new potatoes and beets. It was delicious,” he wrote.

That’s what I call fresh corn, straight from the garden.

So, this year, I’m trying it again. It’s that Three Sisters Garden idea I got from reading a book. I planted corn, beans, and squash in the same hill and discovered that the beans came up first, and the corn had to play catch up.

I’m wondering what happens if the beans just wind around the corn fronds so fast and smother the plants. And what will it be like to hunt for beans or find squash in a cornfield? (My “field” isn’t all that big, and I cheated and planted half as much squash as recommended.)

My corn is finally beginning to tassel. The beans are blooming, and squash plants are running amok.

I’ve harvested new potatoes and picked some tomatoes, but it’s going to be a while before we have our own roasting ears for lunch on another day in the country.

Last modified July 4, 2024