Cooking with Sweet Summer Corn: A-Maize-Ing

Besides being my birthday month, August reminds me of the bountiful sweet corn harvest.  I’ve watched many of the farms transform themselves from barren dirt-covered fields to boastful symmetrical rows of the lushest, rigid corn stalks jutting up towards the sky.

Lucky for me, all of the farmer’s markets on the east end of Long Island have set up their “Sweet Corn Here” signs to lure consumers (like me) to check out their selection of ears.  Corn ear pyramids piled high on tables decorate the stalls, completing the tail-end summer crop before the fall harvest vegetables enter the landscape.

Can you pull out corn from the bottom without making the rest fall?

Growing up, Mom would always take me on her weekly August excursions in search of the farm stands offering the sweetest Silver Queen corn.  At that time, the Maryland Silver Queen corn was the premiere corn crop. The corn’s sweet, white kernels could make the mouth of any Marylander water.  We’d travel to the “stands” which were usually crude pick up trucks with their trunk area piled high with ears and ears of corn.  She’d spend a good half hour giving me lessons on how to pick through the crop in search of the perfect selection.  We’d peel down the husks to get a peak at the corn, looking for complete rows of milky full kernels lining the corn ear all the way to the tip.  If there were any signs of ear worms, we’d decide if the ears could still be salvageable for cooking.  Satisfied with our purchase, we’d walk away with our brown paper bags filled to the brim.  As soon as we entered the house, Mom would set up the huge pot on the stove while I’d shuck the corn in the carport with my sister.  No barbecue or summer dinner of Mom’s was complete without Silver Queen corn, specially-prepared.

I have every desire to cook as much corn this summer as my mom.  I’ve recently taken frequent trips to my favorite local organic farm stand, Green Thumb, and have finally gotten the nerve to ask the farmers first-hand about their corn crop.  I soon learned that the freshest corn can only be bought in the summertime and, it should be bought as local as possible.  The reason?  Apparently corn’s sugars turn into starches very quickly after being picked.  Therefore, the sooner it’s eaten after it’s picked, the more flavorful it will be.

The farmer also told me that responsible consumers should keep the husks on the corn when selecting ears at a stand (oops, I’ve been the worst offender).   People who pull the husks part of the way down to inspect the corn inside will tarnish its value to other consumers.  Even if it is the most beautiful ear, it’s very likely that the next customer will pass on it. Nobody wants corn other people have discarded. It’s amazing how much you learn by a simply query.

For the remainder of the summer, my menu planning will include corn for dinner and consecutive lunches and then dinner again. My kids love to help shucking the corn and removing the silks. After we serve the boiled corn for dinner, they’ll happily reveal the reason for its ultra-sweet taste—Meema’s special preparation – boil the corn in 1/3 water, 2/3 milk and 1/3 sugar.  Then, with the left over ears, we’ll cut off the kernels and recreate another of mom’s celebrated dishes: super tasty sautéed skillet corn (which is great either cold or hot).  Then with the leftovers, we’ll make Mom’s fresh corn salad with tomatoes.  Are you catching on to the pattern yet?

While my 40th birthday on Monday was so sad and terribly lonely without Mom, I did have the next best thing happen.  My sister and her entire family flew in from Miami to celebrate with me.  When together, we always seem to laugh and cherish our lives (which couldn’t be more opposite from one another). Undoubtedly, we end up rehashing every last memory we share of Mom (healthy or sick).  How fitting it was that tonight, for dinner, as I tried to strut my culinary stuff for my big sis (remember folks, she’s the one who was blessed with Mom’s gourmet touch), we needed to find an accompaniment to my pasta with homemade pesto and sweet peas.  We both looked at each other and in unison, sang out, “Sweet Summer Corn.”

Mom would’ve been shocked to see both her daughters side-by-side in the kitchen preparing a dinner together.

The best part? We actually discussed the ingredients and taste-tested some samples and doctored the dishes, just like Mom had done during her prep process.  I did feel her presence by our side at the dinner table.  I felt the warmth of her smile and the comfort she took as she watched her children celebrating together around a home-cooked meal.  She had been our muse.  And always will.

Have any favorite summer corn recipes?  Share them with us!


  1. Love the simplicity of this dish! I also want to try the corn with water, milk, and sugar combo. That sounds intriguing! Happy Belated Birthday!!!


  1. […] then decorate the table with crab mallets, heaps of individual saltine cracker packs, wet naps, freshly-buttered Silver Queen corn,and of course, plastic cups full of lemonade for the kids and ice-cold beer for the adults.  When […]

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