The Great Sweet Corn Debate

The Great Sweet Corn Debate
I recently traveled to Clear Lake to visit with a couple of charming women for a Family Living article. Our conversation soon drifted to what was really on their minds: sweet corn.

“Did you see that the Harrington sweet corn is ready?” one of the ladies exclaimed, referring to a local favorite.

We quickly began a passionate debate over what are the best varieties of sweet corn (peaches-and-cream or Kandy Korn?) and which farmers offer the freshest, best-quality sweet corn -- you know, the kind of sweet corn that’s not too young, not too ripe, but a perfect balance of sugary crispness.

If there are two things that every Iowan has an opinion about, it’s the weather and sweet corn. And lately, sweet corn has been a lot more fun to talk about than the rain-soaked forecast.

I’m not embarrassed to admit (OK, slightly embarrassed to admit) that my love of sweet corn runs deep. When I was a kid, my family sold sweet corn from our farm to the folks who lived in town. One of my “town” friends once told me that my family’s sweet corn was the best she’d ever eaten. I was so proud!

While nearly all the corn planted in the state is actually field corn, which is raised to make livestock feed ethanol and other products, many Iowa farmers still plant sweet corn patches today.

When I was growing up my dad, uncle and grandpa would plant a few rows of sweet corn in the fields close to our homes, so they wouldn’t have to walk far to pick it. I took for granted that our fridge and freezer were always stocked with home-grown sweet corn.

Now that I live in town, I try to stop at one of the many sweet corn stands on my commute home from work. There are even some farm stands that load up a table or wagon full of sweet corn in their yards, and trust you to pay for what you take.

Just as there are a wide range of opinions about the best variety of sweet corn, Iowans never agree on the best way to cook and eat the summer treasure.

I still prepare sweet corn the way my dad taught me – a quick zap in the microwave. Sure, it’s not as gourmet as grilled sweet corn seasoned with sea salt, or whatever is trendy right now. But my dad didn’t have time to mess with a big pot of boiling water when he only had a few minutes to break for lunch before loading hogs and he wasn’t going to miss his sweet corn.

Unlike my dad, I prefer to eat my sweet corn right off the cob; he likes to cut it off the cob first. One of my co-workers recently told me that her daughter prefers to eat corn-on-the cob “typewriter” style, while she eats up and down, ‘round the cob. So I guess they are also a mixed sweet corn family.

How about you? What’s your favorite way to eat sweet corn, how about your favorite variety, and where’s your favorite stand?

Let us know, so we can talk more about sweet corn this summer and less about the weather.

Written by Teresa Bjork