Let’s play The Vegetable Game! First, grab yourself a beer or a cocktail. Now, pick a vegetable–any vegetable. No need to literally pick one from your garden. Just temporarily adopt a vegetable name. For instance, I will be Corn and you will be Summer Squash. The game works best with lots of participants and lots of beer. I will start the game by saying my own vegetable twice and then naming your vegetable twice. (“Corn corn. Summer Squash Summer Squash.”) You then say your own vegetable name twice and someone else’s vegetable name twice. And so on. The catch? If you show your teeth, you have to drink. The more drinks you’ve had, the funnier it is to watch someone scream, “Rutabaga Rutabaga!” while impersonating an elderly muppet.
The Vegetable Game was one of the many drinking games I learned in college. I was always Corn. This is because, while absurdly wrapping my lips around my teeth, I would shriek, “Corn, Corn!” in a high-pitched voice verging on hysteria, and could almost always make people laugh, which caused them to expose their forbidden teeth. I encourage you to practice toothlessly shouting various vegetable names in front of a mirror to judge their comic potential and then challenge your friends to The Vegetable Game at your next social gathering.
Speaking of corn, we picked our first ears this weekend! I am not sure how developed they will all become, because I did not assist them in their pollination this year. A couple of years ago, I read that it is difficult to grow just a few corn plants in a garden unless you hand pollinate them. So, last summer and the previous summer that is exactly what I did. I would knock the pollen out of the tassels onto a paper plate and then transfer the yellow powder onto the silks with a paintbrush. Although I had the uncomfortable feeling that I was perhaps becoming too personal with my corn, it must have worked, because the sixteen plants that we managed to fit in our tiny garden produced beautiful ears.
Our main issue has been knowing when to harvest the ears. We agonize over picking them too early or too late. Raccoons do not have this problem. They know the perfect time to raid our garden and steal the biggest, plumpest ear. After this happens, we follow their lead and rip down the rest of them. Thus begins our annual corn eating frenzy. We may have picked our corn a bit early this year in our attempt to beat the raccoons to the punch; the three ears we tried were a bit skinny but very tender. We are leaving the rest of the ears on the stalks to see if they will fill out a bit. The reason that I did not help my corn with its pollinating this year is because we were out-of-town when the corn silks appeared. I took a chance and decided to see if nature and the wind would take care of it. Hopefully the rest of the ears will properly develop, but not become raccoon chow.
It has been so freaking hot this year that we have not given our yard or garden the amount of attention that we usually do. Today, Bill cut our neglected lawn for the first time in three weeks–we finally got some rain, so the grass is starting to grow again. When he opened the back gate that leads to our alley he encountered a surprise: there was a perky little stalk of corn standing there blocking his way! Bonus corn!
I LOVE freshly picked sweet corn. Maybe more than raccoons do. You will not see too many recipes using corn on this blog, because I think the best way to eat it is straight from the cob just with a bit of butter, salt and pepper. On occasion, we will make some herb butter by mixing in some chives or basil, but that’s about it. If we end up with more that we can eat, we will blanch and freeze it. We usually use the frozen stuff in salsa (our salsa recipe will be coming soon). I know some people like to grill corn, but I am not one of them–just a personal preference.
I like my corn lightly boiled, so tender that it practically falls off the cob. I eat it slowly and savor the way each kernel bursts when I bite into it. I detest when people cook the heck out of a beautiful ear of corn and make it tough and rubbery. I will not order corn on the cob in restaurants for this very reason. I have yet to find one that does not destroy its corn. Below is how I always cook it. I sometimes leave out the lemon, but always add the sugar. I also love to husk corn. Carefully peeling off each layer is soothing to me. Kind of like eating string cheese or Little Debbie Pecan Spinwheels.
This cooking technique is verbatim from Betty Crocker’s Cookbook:
Refrigerate unhusked corn until ready to use. Corn is best when eaten as soon after picking as possible. Husk ears and remove silk just before cooking.
Place corn in enough unsalted cold water to cover (salt toughens corn). Add 1 tbsp sugar and 1 tbsp lemon juice to each gallon of water. Heat to boiling. Boil uncovered 2 minutes: remove from heat. Let stand uncovered 10 minutes before serving.