Thursday 28th July 2011
After all that beany greenness, the arrival of summer-yellow sweetcorn in the vegboxes signals a new phase of crops coming in from the fields, and the flurry of culinary creativity that ensues. As veggies go, sweetcorn has few enemies. Humbly boiled they are the ultimate lazy man’s veg, needing no more than a smear of butter. Thrown into a fritter they offer bursts of cracking sugary bite, munched off the cob they’ll keep kids busy and happy with one of their five a day (brilliant!), and if you’ve chickens in your back garden, toss any unfinished cobs to your flock and watch the feathery mayhem unfold. They love them.
Out of the British growing season (and often during it), supermarkets import sweetcorn from as far afield as Thailand and the USA, where it is often grown on a mind-boggling scale, and the journey here doesn't help the flavour. Much of Riverford’s early sweetcorn comes from the warm fields around sleepy Budleigh Salterton on Devon’s south coast, with more regional harvests coming in to our farms as the season progresses. The crop is hand-picked, and there’s an art to harvesting the cobs; peeking inside the green husks to check their readiness is not an option, as they rapidly deteriorate once unpeeled. Instead, our pickers must gently squeeze their way through the fields, to feel if the kernels are full and ripe.
Unlike supermarket sweetcorn, ours come with its sheath of protective leaves intact. Why they sanitise theirs in such a way is up there with the madness of rejecting a beautiful bean crop because they are not poker-straight. Not only do the husks do a far better job of keeping sweetcorn fresh than the plastic that replaces them ever could, but they also double up as a kind of natural aluminium foil, protecting the kernels from scorching during cooking. The trick is to soak the unpeeled cobs in water for at least an hour, before slowly roasting on the BBQ or in the oven, allowing the kernels to steam their way to tasty tenderness.
The first of our sweetcorn will be in some of the boxes this week, and available to add onto your order for next week, giving this vegetable story a pleasingly corny ending.