Come and get it: local corn is in season
Shuck it, grill it, put it in a salsa — one of the summer favorites is arriving daily at our stores and it doesn’t get any sweeter than fresh-picked.
By Robbie Sigona
Did you know that a stalk of corn only produces one good ear? Or how about this…did you know you really only need to let corn swim in boiling water for about 2 minutes if that’s the cooking method you choose? Well, corn doesn’t really need to be cooked at all before you eat it – in fact, if you’re in the employee room during corn season, you might just see a Sigona peel back the husks and start eating an ear of corn as is …no cooking required.
There’s nothing like fresh-picked corn on the cob, either dressed up with a shmear of butter and a dusting of salt & pepper, or grilled and incorporated into a summer salad. Judging by the popularity of our corn display, the majority of you agree. We get daily deliveries of white corn from our friend John Spina of Spina Farms in Morgan Hill. The corn is picked in the morning and delivered to our stores in the afternoon so we have fresh corn every day.
Such a quick turn around is significant because fresh corn is sweeter corn. This is because once picked, the sugars in corn begin converting to starch. Same with asparagus. Moral of the story: corn is best eaten as fresh-picked as possible.
One of the biggest myths about corn is that it needs to be cooked for a long while before its edible. Even the freshest ear, when cooked too long, can taste starchy and stale. Grilling corn allows its natural sugars to caramelize, which adds another layer of flavor and makes for a more chewy texture. Again, just don’t keep it on the heat for to long. Slice the grilled corn off the cob and incorporate it into a citrus-based salsa and you’ll be the talk of the town!
We’ve worked with the Spina family – John, his father and his son, all named John, – for nearly 40 years. They have a small produce stand of their own in Morgan Hill, too, and used to buy some items from us at our old roadside fruit stands along Old Monterey Highway…back when we were called Coyote Berry Acres. A lot has changed for us since then, but our relationships with farmers have stayed the same. We wouldn’t be where we are today if it weren’t for our local farmers.
Corn got a late start this summer, just like most California produce, but John says the stalks are doing well now and should be in steady production until November.
“We have 150 acres on which we’re growing a few different varieties of white corn this season,” said John. “We grow different varieties each year to find which respond the best to the conditions and farming techniques. Quality is very important to us and we pick only when the corn is at its peak so Sigona’s and its customers get the best.”
In general, white corn is more tender and sweet than yellow corn, which has a more chewy texture and hardy corn flavor. My Uncle Carmelo remembers when white corn was a rare find in markets; it wasn’t until the 1970s that the demand for white corn grew and farmers began planting more white than yellow. Until that time, yellow corn was the norm – Golden Bantam was popular in the 1950s and Golden Jubilee was the rage in the late 1960s.
In addition to white corn, Spina Farms grows peppers, tomatoes, beans, squash, Indian corn and 67 (yes 67!) different varieties of pumpkins and gourds, many of which you’ll see decorating our stores come fall.
The Spina family also operates the Spina Farms Pumpkin Patch on their farm in the fall, featuring train rides on the Spina Pumpkin Express, hay ride tours of the pumpkin patch and Indian Corn field, pumpkin decorating and more. It’s a great destination for the family in the fall and it’s open beginning the last weekend in September through the month of October.
If there are two produce items in our store that go together like salt & pepper, it’s corn and tomatoes. Right now we have fantastic, locally grown baby and cherry tomatoes that pair beautifully with corn cut from the cob. Make sure to check out our recipes for corn, such as Fresh Corn Salad with Black Beans, Tomato and Cilantro and even a recipe for Corn Ice Cream.