Locally grown corn is widely available this time of year. Even folks who rarely choose local produce know that corn-on-the-cob tastes much better when freshly picked rather than several weeks old in the supermarkets.
Early August is usually the peak time for local corn-on-the-cob, but this year harvesting is running a couple of weeks later than usual. By the end of the season, though, production in Ohio is expected to be about normal.
Our corn-on-the cob is classified as sweet corn, a variety of corn with a high sugar content. As sweet corn matures, the sugar is converted to starch, hence it should be eaten fresh.
Over the years, the varieties of sweet corn have gotten sweeter through mutations, both natural and laboratory, proving ever-more satisfying for Americans’ sweet tooth. Whether the amount of sugar is unhealthy in contemporary ultra-sweet corn is controversial.
I was pleasantly surprised when I recently bit into corn-on-the-cob from Downing Fruit Farm, available at Oxford’s Farmers Market. The kernels were pleasingly crunchy with a strong “corny” flavor, but something seemed “missing.” It took me several bites to realize what was missing: an ultra-high sugar content. I didn’t miss the excessive sugar.
Corn-on-the-cob can be cooked in several ways. Each has its devoted advocates, set in their ways. I’m unlikely to convince any of you to change, but here goes anyway.
Much to my surprise, the most nutritious and eco-friendly method of cooking corn-on-the cob is microwaving. Dr. Gene Willeke, longtime Director of Miami’s Institute for the Environment and Sustainability, one of Oxford’s most respected and nationally prominent environmentalists, was a passionate advocate for microwaving corn.
Concurring with Gene is Jo Robinson, whose book “Eating on the Wild Side,” I refer to frequently. Robinson especially discourages cooking corn in water. “This brutality has got to stop,” she writes. “The less contact corn has with water, the more nutrients stay in the kernels.”
To prepare corn for microwaving, remove the outer silks and most of the outer husks. Don’t expose the kernels; leave one level of husk wrapped around them.
Timing depends on your microwave. In my relatively old, less powerful microwave, one ear takes 3 minutes, and I add 2 minutes for each additional ear, thus 13 minutes for 6 ears. The cooked corn is very hot, so handle with care.
One benefit of microwaving is that the husk and silk have softened, allowing them to be peeled away much more easily and quickly than when shucking uncooked corn. Microwaving rather than boiling or grilling the corn also enhances the “cornier” flavor of our local corn.
Cook all of your corn when fresh. If any ears are leftover, cut the kernels off the cobs and the next day gently reheat in butter.
I eat corn-on-the-cob as a separate first course. Held in one’s hands, dripping with butter and moisture, corn-on-the-cob doesn’t interface well with the rest of a meal consumed with fork and knife.
MOON Co-op is Oxford’s consumer-owned full-service grocery, featuring natural, local, organic, sustainable, and Earth-friendly products. The store, located at 516 S. Locust St. in Oxford, is open to the public every day. See it online at www.mooncoop.coop.