Sweet corn season
By CHRISTINE TAILER
The water no longer flows over the ledge rock down at the creek and it is easy to see the bluegill, crappie, and bass swimming lazy circles in the deeper holes. I toss pebbles into the water, right on top of them, and they seem to barely notice.
Perhaps even the fish understand that it is that brief time of year, between growing season and harvest, when we are allowed to slow down, if only for a few moments.
The garden weeds seem to have stopped growing with vigor, the cucumber vines are dying back, and the buckeye trees along the road are starting to yellow and lose their leaves. Without a doubt, our late summer nights have been oddly cool, just a few evenings ago dipping down to an amazingly low of 44 degrees, but I also have no doubt that this cooler weather has made my early morning garden harvests a sweet delight.
And I am so excited! For some reason I have managed to beat the creek valley raccoons to the sweet corn this year. This past spring we planted eight one hundred foot rows of Silver Queen with the old two row corn planter pulled behind our gray Ford 800 tractor, but our first planting of corn did not all come up. Perhaps we did not set the planter quite right and the seeds were buried too deep.
The end result is that our sweet corn is now ripening just perfectly so, not all at once, but staggered so that I am not overwhelmed by the harvest.
I can walk between the rows of corn in the cool morning air wearing a long-sleeved shirt so the sharp edged leaves do not scratch my skin. With cornstalk tassels waving far above my head, I can snap off the black silked ears with my right hand, and tuck them under my left arm, until I have an armful of ten or so ears.
I can then step out from the rows of corn and stack the ears on end in my waiting bushel baskets.
With two baskets filled to overflowing, I then take the corn up to the cabin and set the baskets on the side deck picnic table. With the sun higher in the sky, I stand in the shade of the awning and shuck the corn.
I have learned that if I pull off just a few of the outer leaves, and then snap off the base of the husk, I can then pull off most of the leaves, down to the sweet silk, with just one motion.
This year the husks seem to be amazingly moist, perhaps thanks to the cooler weather. White corn milk drips from the end of the ears. I find myself deeply inhaling the sweet smell of the corn and the silver silk.
I then rinse the lingering corn silk off of the cobs, using a toothbrush if necessary, and set the cobs to dry by the kitchen sink. Back on the side deck, chickens in the yard below, I set up my cutting board, and with my favorite, ever so sharp, fish fillet knife, I slice the kernels off of the cobs. The chickens happily gobble up those kernels that scatter on the deck around my feet, and when I am done with the last ear, I sweep off the table, much to their chicken delight.
I then spread the kernels out in a single layer on a sheet of cardboard, covered with paper towels, and then I place another layer of paper towels on top of the corn. Finally, I lie the corn across the top layer of our 12-volt, solar powered, eight cubic foot, deep freezer. The next morning the kernels almost tinkle like silver coins as I pour them into freezer bags, just right for two servings, and ready for a winter dinner.
The day’s chores are all done now, and I still have about two hours before dark. I really need to get the honey off of the hives, but perhaps I will take my cue from the fish, and lazily put up my feet, and make a cup of sweet corn silk tea, and try my hand at making a corn husk angel, like the one I found in my mother’s dresser drawer.
Christine Tailer is an attorney and former city dweller who moved several years ago, with her husband, Greg, to an off-grid farm in south-central Ohio. Visit them on the web at straightcreekvalleyfarm.com.