What is the shortest interval that has passed from the time an ear of corn was picked right off the stalk to the time you sink your teeth into freshly cooked corn on the cob? When I spent summers on Long Island as a kid with my sister and her family, we would often buy corn in July at roadside stands and eat it a few hours later. Perhaps in some cases just an hour or two after it had been picked. It left an indelible mark on my food memory banks as it was always the most incredible tasting and sweetest corn I have ever tasted. As soon as corn in picked, the natural sugars in the kernels start to change into starch and the longer corn sits, the more starchy it becomes. In recent years, varieties of corn that prolong the sweetness have improved a lot of fresh corn, but I suspect there is still NOTHING like eating it fresh. And I mean field fresh.
Last Sunday we were driving down from Tagaytay in the early afternoon and I spotten a tractor in the lush cornfields of a University campus near the outskirts of Santa Rosa. I stopped to take a photo and realized the corn was being harvested, brought roadside and was being loaded onto trucks to be hauled away. Quite a few cars had stopped and individuals were being allowed to buy the corn at retail prices. I was so excited to be this close to the freshly picked corn that I immediately told the foreman I wanted to buy 30 ears. At a price of PHP12 each, not cheap, but wickedly fresh.
We were allowed to pick the 30 largest ears of corn we could find, and I have to say they were so fresh that they still had a little bit of sap and stickiness on the bright yellow green husks. A few pieces had a worm or two right up at the top where the corn silk was, and while that might gross some of you out, to me it was a good sign that the fields weren’t heavily sprayed with insecticides. When we removed the husks we just cut off a half inch or so from about 6-8 ears of corn.
From this basket we loaded it into our car, and rushed home, a drive of another 40 minutes. At about 20 minutes from our home, I called the cook and asked her to start a huge pot of water boling on the stove.
When we reached home, we quickly shucked about 8 ears of the corn, and I took several bites of raw corn that were brilliant – juicy and SWEET. A few minutes later the water was ready, then we boiled the corn for just 8-10 minutes and pulled it out.
This was some of the BEST tasting corn I have ever consumed. I figured it was picked some 60-70 minutes earlier and the freshness was palpable. If you come across a pile of freshly picked corn and you have access to a kitchen nearby, don’t miss that chance to enjoy the field fresh corn! And DON’T OVERCOOK it.