Eating locally grown produce isn’t something to practice just while you’re at home. With a little research, you can eat local just about anywhere – even while you’re on vacation.
Each Memorial Day, I travel down to the Gulf of Mexico just south of Tallahassee. When stocking the beach kitchen, I’m always looking for what’s growing in the neighborhood. There are several Tallahassee farmers markets, one on Wednesday afternoon and three on Saturdays. That’s where I go shopping.
At the Frenchtown Farmers Market, I met Ed Duffee Jr. His booth offered melons and summer squash, pepper vinegar and cane syrup. And beautiful ears of sweet corn. His sign advertised that he was growing vegetables less than a mile from the market. When I left the market, I stopped by the garden plot and found a beautifully tended garden in the midst of a residential neighborhood.
Duffee told me later in a telephone conversation that what I saw was his “demonstration garden.” He also farms 20 acres in Lloyd, Florida, about 11 miles east of Tallahassee. The demonstration garden occupies two city lots that were once the garden plot of his uncle. When his uncle died eight years ago, Duffee took over the space, and there he grows a little bit of everything he grows on the 20-acre farm. “Collards, mustard greens, sweet onions, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, corn,” he ran through the list of vegetables. “And scuppernong vines.”
The demonstration garden offers a chance for neighborhood children to learn how things grow. And on Mondays and Fridays he’s on hand to answer questions.
As for his corn, at the farm he grows two-and-a-half acres of white and yellow varieties and he says his customers will buy whatever he has available, although he detects a small preference for the white.
He planted his corn in late March or early April as soon as the frosts were gone and was harvesting in late May.
“We can pick corn for about three weeks at most,” Duffee said. “But if you pick it when it’s ripe, you can keep it chilled and it will store a little longer. If you don’t pick it once it turns ripe, it will dry out in the field and you can’t eat it. Chilled, it might keep for three or four weeks and still be really good.”
As for how he enjoys his corn, he keeps it simple. “We just boil it and eat it off the cob,” he said. “We do keep some back for ourselves and freeze it, and then we can enjoy corn for another eight or nine months.”
Duffee says there are two challenges of growing corn: weeds and deer. “You have to work at your corn or the weeds will take over. And you have to protect it from deer. Otherwise, they will go through the field and you’ll think a lawnmower went through there.”
Stuart Tracy’s Creamed Corn with Country Ham
Stuart Tracy, executive chef at Parish in Atlanta’s Inman Park neighborhood, created this recipe to take advantage of sweet summer corn. He prefers yellow corn for this dish as much for aesthetics as anything else. “Yellow, white and bicolor corn are virtually all the same as it relates to flavor and sweetness, but yellow corn keeps the dish looking like corn after it’s cooked, and not lumpy mashed potatoes or grits,” he wrote when he provided the recipe.
His recipe for Corn Stock is a great way to get every last bit of flavor out of delicious fresh summer corn. And you can make this dish vegetarian and vegan-friendly by eliminating the ham.
As for the wine, Tracy recommends using any dry white wine such as a pinot grigio or vinho verde.
Want less of a mess when cutting the corn kernels off the cobs? Set your corn ear upright in the center hole of an angel food or Bundt cake pan. Then cut the kernels off the cob. Almost every kernel will fall into the cake pan instead of flying around your counter.
6 ears yellow corn
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 shallots, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
1 cup white wine
2 cups Corn Stock (see recipe)
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons finely diced country ham, speck ham or prosciutto
Shuck corn removing any silk that may cling to the cob. Cut kernels from the cob by standing the cob upright on a damp kitchen towel and then slicing the kernels off the cob using a sharp kitchen knife. Or use the tip in the notes above. You should have about 5 cups of kernels. Refrigerate kernels and use cobs to make Corn Stock (see recipe).
When ready to serve corn: in a large saucepan, heat butter over medium heat until it begins to bubble. Add shallots, garlic and bay leaf and reduce heat so vegetables cook gently until they have softened but not browned. Stir in the reserved corn and the wine. Simmer until the wine has reduced to about 1/4 cup. Add the corn stock and bring mixture to a boil. Then reduce heat and simmer until corn is completely tender. Discard bay leaf.
In the jar of a blender, puree approximately one quarter of the corn mixture, then stir the puree back into the saucepan. Season to taste and stir in ham. Makes: 6 cups
Per 1/2-cup serving: 69 calories (25 percent from fat), 2 grams protein, 5 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 2 grams fat (trace saturated fat), 4 milligrams cholesterol, 47 milligrams sodium.
Extra corn stock will freeze for up to three months and can be used in place of vegetable or chicken stock in any recipe where you’d like a boost of corn flavor.
Cobs from 6 ears of corn
10 cups water
1 yellow onion, peeled and cut into quarters
1/2 head garlic, cloves cut in half lengthwise
2 bay leaves
1 sprig thyme
Chop cobs into two or three pieces each.
In a large stockpot, combine cobs, water, onions, garlic, bay leaves and thyme. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat, cover the pot and simmer for 2 hours. Remove pot from heat and strain mixture. Allow to cool if not using right away. Makes: 8 cups
Per 1-cup serving: 12 calories (percent of calories from fat, 5), trace protein, 3 grams carbohydrates, trace fiber, trace fat (no saturated fat), no cholesterol, 27 milligrams sodium.
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