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Summer in New England

photo of unshucked ears of corn

When I think of summer — my favorite season, by the way — memories of summers past often come to mind. And my favorite warm-weather memories involve beach time with family, followed by a cookout. For me, there isn’t a better way to enjoy a nice, warm day than breaking bread with loved ones after a dip in the ocean. And even if the hot weather isn’t your cup of tea, nearly everyone enjoys the abundance of fresh, local produce in summer.

Local Produce

As a kid, I remember watermelon and tomatoes, summer squash and zucchini – grown in the backyard, of course. Those domestic versions always seemed bigger, more colorful, and tastier than their counterparts at the supermarket. And talk about bumper crops! It seemed like we gave away more zucchini and tomatoes than we could possibly eat ourselves.

Native CornFresh corn, native

But of all the summer foods I enjoyed, nothing could compare to corn. Years before buzzwords like “locally sourced” and “farm-to-table” became common, signs declaring Native Corn seemed ubiquitous (and still do), at farm stands I encountered in greater Boston and on Cape Cod.

Native corn, eh? What’s the big to-do with local corn, you might ask. First of all, buying native corn, or any other local crop for that matter, means you’re supporting local agriculture. That means your money stays local, while reducing the burden for long-range transportation (and that means a greener planet!).

But there’s another important reason native corn is better than the “out of towners” shipped from parts unknown. I’ll let an old New England saying explain: “Corn is picked when the cooking water starts to boil.” Many of you know that sugar in corn starts turning to starch as soon as it’s picked. So, the quicker the cob goes from stalk to pot, the sweeter your corn.

Cooking the Cob 

If you’reclose-ip photo of corn as particular about your corn as I am, then you’re no fan of corn silk. A corn “de-silking” brush never seems to do the trick, and I hate being “that guy” at the table, pulling strands of silk off my corn (the last thing I want to do is offend the cook, especially if it’s my better half!).

So, for those of you who feel the same way about corn silk, I have a solution — cook the corn in the microwave. If you haven’t tried it, it may sound a bit non-traditional. Boiling has always worked well, but doesn’t remove the silk (and grilling corn seems to be a bit popular these days, too, but smoky silk doesn’t make it any more palatable to me).

Before sticking a cob in the microwave, some folks husk the corn and wrap it in plastic wrap. This keeps the moisture in and steams the corn, but does nothing to remove the silk. So my new favorite way to cook corn is right in the husk. After cooking for 3 or 4 minutes per cob (microwaves vary, so you may need to experiment a bit), just chop the end off and wiggle the corn out of the husk. You’ll be left with a virtually silk-free cob!

Note: The corn may be very hot after cooking, so use an over mitt or tongs to pick it up. You may also find this video helpful: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U10MkdbzS54

A Final Word on CornMassachusetts grown...and fresher!

If my humble homage to corn makes you yearn for a cob or two, you’re in luck! Nearly half of the vegetable acreage in New England* is devoted to corn, and prime time for native corn in the Commonwealth is now! Plus, finding native corn is easy. In Massachusetts there are 125 farm stands and 250 farmers’ markets across the Commonwealth that feature native corn. Find native corn near you: http://www.mass.gov/agr/massgrown/map.htm

*University of New Hampshire’s Cooperative Extension.

Written By:


Ted works in communications for the Division of Prevention and Wellness at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

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