The first thing I think of at a picnic or when I attend an outdoor summer party, is sweet Ontario summer corn. I consider it a staple. Beautiful and bright, yellow and creamy white in color, sweet corn lines fields with their silky green stocks until they’re ready to be picked from July through to October. Sweet corn has been around for centuries, beginning with the Iroqouis in 1779 (called Papoon). Today local farms grow sweet corn for all of Ontario to enjoy.
In Ontario, farmers grow three types of this delectable sweet treat, all rich in flavour: normal, sugar-enhanced, and super sweet. Ranging in colour from yellow, bicolour (yellow and white), to white. The flavour usually just intense enough to put a glorious smile on your face.
And the ways to prepare it, they’re endless. Boil the corn and serve it with butter and a touch of salt, make into corn relish, use it as a side dish or in salads, or bake your own corn bread. These tender, succulent little morsels of sweet crunch burst in your mouth the moment you bite in.
Corn has been an important part of Brooks Farms in Mount Albert for over five generations. In fact, Paul Brooks, owner, says it was his Aunt Betty who set the bar with her sweet corn stand in Mount Albert all those years ago. “We try our best to maintain the reputation,” he laughs. “It’s the kind of crop that makes you think about summer and roadside stands. It’s a quintessential Ontario food.”
Every week Brooks’ team plants three quarters of an acre of corn in an effort to keep up with the summer demand. The crop is best enjoyed during its peak in August, but visitors to Brooks Farms can pick up fresh corn in the farm’s marketplace starting in July. “We go out fresh every morning to pick corn and, if things are busy, we’re back out there in the afternoon,” he explains.
“If you come in and pick up a basket of peaches and some corn… that’s August to me,” Brooks says as if he’s been whisked away to a summer afternoon picnic while we were speaking.
Over in Newmarket, Trapper Bob Farm is known the GTA over for their sweet corn—so much so that the owners boast “most people tell us it’s the best sweet corn they have ever tasted.” The farm specializes in the synergistic varieties of sweet corn more commonly known as “triple sweet” with a peaches and cream colouring.
When buying corn, you’re looking for bright green and moist husks – this means they’re fully ripe and sweet! The silk should be stiff, dark, and moist. Ideally, corn should be cooked and eaten immediately after picking since its natural sugar declines as soon as it’s been picked. You can grab corn from a local farm, farmers markets, or your favourite grocery store, and of course, watch for road-side stands during your summer travels. Be sure to keep corn moist, and pack a cooler for the trip home from the farm or market.
Wherever you’re dining this summer, be it a backyard barbeque or one of our fabulous local restaurants, be sure to bite into to this sweet summer treat. Ontario sweet corn will inspire you to peel away the husk and discover sweet gold.
Melinda Paletta is a Food Writer, Gourmet Epicure, Host of her food show DA EATS TV, and Always ready for a Culinary Adventure. www.dabutchersdaughter.ca