It’s a corn-u-copia!

It’s been a tough summer for Ontario corn producers, though you wouldn’t know it from the mountains of sleek cobs heaped in farmers’ markets across the city.

Until recently, growers of sweet corn and other vegetables were watering their fields 16 to 18 hours a day just to keep the crops alive and cranking up the AC in packing sheds to get the field heat out fast and keep their hard-won produce fresh and crisp.

“The heat and drought stress can cause a wide range of issues, including lower ‎yields, smaller sizes and uneven maturity and ripening,” said Dan Tukendorf, program manager for the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association.

If Mother Nature co-operates, Tukendorf says this sweet summer treat should be plentiful through Labour Day weekend. The local season normally runs to Thanksgiving.

No GMO

Charles Welsh, who grows 600 acres of sweet corn in Norfolk County, is tired of hearing that 95 per cent of all corn is genetically modified. That figure includes field or cow corn, which is not grown for human consumption. “There’s a very small percentage of GMO sweet corn,” says Welsh, who sells his GMO-free corn to 150 independent stores, including Highland Farms and Michael-Angelo’s, “and most large buyers won’t accept it.”

 

Colour blind

Don’t judge corn by its colour. Yellow, bi-colour (peaches and cream) and white corn all come in different varieties, each with its own flavour. While bi-colour remains popular, Welsh said his yellow Chocolate Sunshine variety is gaining fans, and there’s growing interest in white corn. Loblaws is selling trays of Amaize white corn, produced by a local grower. It’s so sweet you can eat it raw!

Buy & Store

  • Ask when the corn was picked. Fresh is best, though newer varieties stay sweet far longer than in the past.
  • Do a farmer a favour and don’t peel back the husk when buying sweet corn; the cob will dry out and can’t be resold.
  • Choose firm, heavy cobs with a taut, fresh-looking husk and a moist tassel.
  • Feel each ear through the husk to check for plump, even kernels.
  • Refrigerate corn immediately in its husk and eat as soon as possible for best flavour.

Prep

  • Shuck: grab the silky tassel and pull down to unzip the cob. Discard husk and silk.
  • Boil: Bring pot of unsalted water to a boil. Cook naked cobs 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Microwave: Husk corn and place on micro-safe baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap. Microwave on High 2 minutes per cob or just until tender. Let stand 2 minutes before unwrapping.
  • Grill: Peel back husks, leaving them attached to the stem. Remove silk and brush corn with olive oil. Cover with husk and roast on medium grill, turning occasionally, until husks are toasted, about 10 minutes.
  • Cut kernels: Husk cob and cut end to create a flat surface. Place cob upright in a deep bowl and cut straight down with a sharp paring knife to remove kernels. Rotate cob slightly and repeat. Save cobs for stock.
  • Freeze: Drop shucked corn cobs into boiling water 2 to 3 minutes. When cool enough to handle, cut kernels off cobs, spoon into freezer bags and remove as much air as possible. Seal and freeze.

Serve

  • Go Mexican: brush grilled cobs with mayonnaise and sprinkle with crumbled cotija or feta cheese, lime juice and cayenne/chili powder.
  • Add raw or cooked kernels to salads and salsa. Simmer into soup or chowder, fry into fritters, chowder or pasta sauce.
  • Make a summer succotash with sautéed corn kernels, lima beans, zucchini, tomatoes, red peppers and basil.
  • Make corn pudding or ice cream for dessert.

Foodland warm caramelized corn dipWarm Caramelized Corn Dip

This now-famous dip, adapted from Foodland Ontario, also makes a great topping for burgers or fish tacos. For a more decadent version, use Neal Brothers’ lime mayonnaise.

4 large cobs Ontario corn, shucked

2 tbsp (30 mL) butter

2 green onions, trimmed and thinly sliced

4 small cloves garlic, minced

2/3 cup (150 mL) reduced-fat mayonnaise (or to taste)

1/3 cup (75 mL) water

1/4 cup (60 mL) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

2 tsp (10 mL) smoked paprika (sold at bulk stores)

1 tbsp (15 mL) fresh lime juice

1/2 tsp (2 mL) ground black pepper

1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt

Hot pepper or chipotle pepper sauce to taste (optional)

Garnish:

1 medium tomato, seeded, diced

2 tbsp (30 mL) fresh coriander leaves

Tortilla chips

Place a corn cob upright in a bowl and slice off kernels from top to bottom using a paring knife. You should have about 4 cups (1 L).

In large skillet, melt butter over medium-high. Cook corn, undisturbed, for 3 minutes or until starting to brown. Cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until deep golden brown. Stir in green onions and garlic; cook 1 to 2 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium-low; stir in mayonnaise, water, cheese, smoked paprika, lime juice, pepper and salt until smooth. Cook, stirring, until slightly thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Season with hot sauce (if using). Spoon into a shallow bowl and garnish with tomato and coriander. Serve warm or at room temperature with tortilla chips.

Makes about 3 cups (750 mL).

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