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What's in Season at the Farmers Markets: First Corn

First season's corn at Yasukochi Family Farms
First season's corn at Yasukochi Family Farms
Felicia Friesema

Corn is the stuff of fortunes, or lack thereof, depending on your point of view. It's one of the few food commodities (corn futures, actually) that the stock markets still pay close attention to, and by the way, it's rising like mad thanks to the miserable weather back east. In fact, some Midwestern fields won't be dried out in time for a planting this season. Good for traders. Bleak times for a lot of corn folk, but tell that to the girl next to us at the market who pointed, eyes and mouth agape, and said, "OMG corn!" (Yes, she said "Oh-Em-Gee.") We'd be lying if we said we didn't share some of her enthusiasm. First corn of the season doesn't always taste quite as good as an ear in mid-summer, but it's symbolic of so many good summer things: sweet corn salsas, steamy pudding-like uchepos, and of course, barbecues,

When the corn first appeared two weeks ago, it was not quite ready for the spotlight. Corn should be true to character, flavorful and nourishing to both self and culture. Back then, it was a bit immature, lacking the full sweet corn juice and punch that we expect from summertime crops. Simply, it was bland. But as the season progresses, the corn improves, and quickly, so it was just a matter of waiting.

Most of the corn you see in the markets now are sweet white corn varieties. Underwood Family Farms sometimes plants an interesting and flavorful bicolor cob. But "old fashioned" yellow varieties have generally fallen out of favor with some farms. A shame, really, as they have a more complex and traditional corn flavor.

Regardless of variety, if you're buying in the husk (we love roasting corn with husk intact), always pull back the silk at the top to inspect for corn worms. Most farmers prevent worms from developing early on by treating young cobs before the worms can take hold. But if you find a few in the pile, smile. It means your grower is selling non-GMO corn. Corn that's been genetically modified is inhospitable to corn worms. You're other option is to buy your corn already husked -- most growers offer this at their stands -- just plan on using it fast as it loses moisture much more quickly.

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