No matter how you cook it, whether boiled, grilled on the cob or kerneled as an ingredient in any dish, this particular type of corn has a soft texture and buttery sweetness you won't find in any other vegetable.
Added to this enjoyment is the impressive fact that Florida ranks No. 1 nationally in the production of sweet corn, according to the University of Florida Extension. This produce loves the muck-soil prevalent in and around the Everglades, as well as the heat and sun in the far southern part of the state, where more than 50,000 acres are devoted to sweet corn production.
Corn, like many other vegetables, doesn't grow wild. It requires cultivation and attention. According to Herbs-Taste&Treat.com, cultivation first took place thousands of years B.C. in Mexico, where ancient grains were first discovered. Corn soon became an important staple in Central America, and from there it migrated around the world in the centuries that followed.
Over time, corn's uses became voluminous — medicinal, animal feed, food supplements — and its commercial applications, to this day, are staggering, from the production of ethanol to boost gasoline's octane levels to its use in plastics, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, fabrics and more.
But sweet corn as we know it today didn't just happen. In fact, only 50 years ago, corn wasn't all that sweet and had a relatively short shelf life, which inhibited high-volume retail sales. Then, in the early '50s, corn geneticists and professors of botany at the University of Illinois and the University of Florida developed a corn hybrid that stored much less starch and up to 10 times more sugar. Their research led to what has become known as Sunshine Sweet Corn, the highest quality of its type, which is now grown exclusively in Florida.
Tommy Holt Sr. of Wellington is one of the state's prime and long-time growers. He's been producing sweet corn from more than 4,000 acres around Lake Okeechobee near the Everglades since 1964, and despite some odd weather this year, he sees 2014 yielding a sizable harvest of high quality sweet corn.
Tommy's wife, Ann, who was voted Florida's Agricultural Woman of the Year in 2010, is equally involved in the business and for 14 years has headed up the Sweet Corn Fiesta, a major annual event at the South Florida Fair Grounds in West Palm Beach.
A highlight of the fiesta is a corn-eating contest, the organizing of which is contracted out to the folks who stage the annual Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest in New York. The record holder of the corn event consumed 35 ears in the allocated 12 minutes. According to Holt, the greatest hazard of participating in the event is extreme jaw fatigue more than gastric distress. I'd vote for both.
But for normal consumption, Florida sweet corn has many delectable uses. Here are examples of how to put this unique produce to good use as a savory and a dessert.
SUNSHINE SWEET CORN ON THE COB
|6||Sunshine Sweet Corn, with husks and silk removed|
|Large pot of boiling water|
|A pinch of sea salt|
|Sea salt and freshly-ground pepper|
Bring the pot of water to a rolling boil and add the pinch of salt
Drop the 6 ears of corn in the boiling water and cook for 5 minutes
Drain off the boiling water, plate the corn, and spread each ear with butter until it melts
Sprinkle each ear liberally with the salt and pepper and serve (with generous napkins)
• While the above process brings out the best texture and flavor of the corn, you can, of course, add other flavorings, like several drops of Tabasco to the boiling water or a flavored butter to spread on the cooked corn.
• Instead of boiling the corn, you could cook it on a grill to get a slightly smokey flavor. First remove the silk, then brush the corn with olive oil (which will keep the kernels from burning, better than butter will), add whatever flavoring you'd like, then wrap each ear in its husk. Tie each ear with string to keep it together. Cook on the grill for about 15 minutes, turning each ear often so it cooks evenly.
• Instead of boiling the corn, you could put the ears in a microwave, husk and all. Cook for about 5 minutes, then husk and serve with butter and salt and pepper.
SAVORY SWEET CORN FRITTERS
|2||ears Sunshine Sweet Corn, with the kernels cut off|
|¾||cup plain Greek yogurt|
|3||tablespoons olive oil, divided 2 and 1|
|3||eggs, yolks and whites divided|
|1||scallion, finely chopped|
|¾||teaspoon sea salt|
|¼||teaspoon freshly ground pepper|
In a large bowl, combine the corn kernels, cornmeal, yogurt, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 egg yolk, the chopped scallion, and the salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly until combined
In a mixer, beat the 3 egg whites until they form soft peaks. (Discard the remaining 2 egg yolks)
Fold the egg whites into the corn mixture
In a large non-stick frying pan, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and bring the heat up to medium-high
Place 4 spoonfulls of batter into the pan, keeping them separated, to make 4 fritters. Cook about 3 minutes until the bottoms are golden brown. Then gently turn each over to cook the other side about another 3 minutes.
Put the 4 fritters aside and keep warm. Repeat with the remaining batter until it's all used up. This should make about 12 fritters.
The fritters can be served as a side dish, an appetizer, or a snack with the addition of guacamole or salsa.
SWEET CORN PUDDING WITH BOOZY FRUIT
|6||ears of Sunshine Sweet Corn, with the kernels cut off (This should yield about 4 cups. Divide into 3 and 1|
|1||cup heavy cream|
|4||tablespoons melted unsalted butter|
|3||tablespoons sour cream|
|2||teaspoons baking powder|
|1||teaspoon sea salt|
|Fruit for topping (see Note)|
Thoroughly butter the inside of a 12-by-18 baking pan or dish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Put all the following in a food processor: 3 cups of corn kernels, the eggs, cream, sugar, melted butter, flour, sour cream, baking powder and salt.
Run the processor until the mixture is smooth
Spoon in the remaining 1 cup of corn kernels until thoroughly dispersed in the batter
Pour the entire mixture into the buttered baking dish, and place in the preheated oven for about 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown
Take from the oven and let stand for about 15 minutes
Cut into serving pieces, top with marinated fruit, and serve
Note: For the fruit topping, use any combination you prefer.
• Strawberries in Grand Marnier
• Honeydew in Limoncello
• Pears in Riesling
Marinate the fruit for at least an hour along with 2 tablespoons of sugar before serving.