Monday, August 17, 2009

When I started out in the produce business 25 years ago, a customer asked me for Peaches n' Cream and I didn't know what he was talking about till months later when I discovered it was a delicious bicolor (white and yellow) variety of corn.

The first time I went to a farm to pick up a load of corn I put 5 tons of it into my 1 ton cube van not realizing I was overloading the vehicle; (I was a newbie in the business LOL) and the farmer not mentioning that fact either but he and his farm hands proceeded to fill my van to the ceiling.

As I drove down the highway with my buddy Frank beside me in the middle of nowhere the cab started to fill up with smoke, at first we thought it was a farmer burning his fields; later realizing that farmer's do not burn their fields in August and that the van was on fire! With a full tank of gas we realized the van may explode so we stopped and jumped out and ran down the highway trying to put some distance between the van and ourselves. After a few minutes and the van not exploding we cautiously approached the van to find that the wheels had been rubbing against the box because we were hauling too much weight and had caught on fire. Opening the back door we threw 3000 lbs of corn onto the highway to get to the fire underneath and having nothing to extinguish the flames and out of desperation we proceeded to pee on the fire. Pulling the floor apart too of a $35,000 van and finally we put out the fire.

In the end we had to wait for a friend to drive out and load the extra weight onto his pickup. The 6 hour trip ended up taking 15 hours and we had to unload the corn by hand into the coolers at 4 am in the morning. Exhausting and I never made that journey again, instead opting to hire professionals to pick up my orders.

The mistakes we make learning the ropes in any business venture are life lessons that we can hopefully look back upon and laugh and remember fondly.

There are so many varieties of corn being grown and marketed today and to pick supersweet corn is very simple once you learn the technique.

When choosing cobs of corn the silky hairs at the top of the ear should be dry and light brown or yellow in color, not black, moldy, or wet and slimy. This is the most telling sign of the freshness of the corn. The butt of the cob should be dry too and there shouldn't be any red color present.

Next, run your hand down the length of the cob and squeeze the cob firmly, it should be perfectly cylindrical and solid. If the cob is misshappened, mushy or flat on one side this means the cob inside is no good. Using this method, there's no need to ever peel back the ear and check the kernels.

An important note...corn is a loss leader and I don't know of any grocery stores that make a profit after accounting for all the bad and peeled back ears of corn that get thrown out.

Lastly, open the top of the cob about a 1/2 inch and look at the tip for any signs of caterpillars, if they're present there will be a little hole at the very tip of the cob or brown borings present, or if any red color is present do not buy that cob of corn.

With cooling techniques used today, corn should last a week in your fridge if it's purchased fresh. If the corn is warm to the touch when you're buying it, this means the corn was fresh picked but not cooled so it will not last more than 1 day before it spoils and becomes starchy. Good only if you intend to eat it the same day.

Following these simple tips you will always pick excellent corn. A side note...corn will be sweet whether you eat it raw or cooked so if you're not timid and samples are available take a bite, the taste test is always the best!



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