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Sweet corn season

Agriculture.com Staff 08/06/2007 @ 11:42am

The summer when my sister Dot was seven and I was five, we decided to form a partnership and start a small business.

It was August and we had noted that our family garden plot was overrun with sweet corn. We picked a dozen ears, set an old plank on a couple of empty five-gallon grease pails and opened for business.

But business was slow. Dot decided that what our stand needed was some signage. She ran to the house and our plank was soon adorned with a sheet of paper that had the words "Sweet Corn For Sale" scribbled upon it.

At least that's what I assumed; I didn't yet know how to read.

During that long morning we learned the cardinal rule of retail: It's all about location, location, location. Exactly two vehicles passed the little stand at the end of our driveway, the mailman's car and the milk truck.

Only the milk truck driver stopped to make a purchase. After our firm had racked up profits totaling exactly two bits, we decided to cease operations and distribute all earnings. I, being Labor, was paid a dime; Dot, being Management, received 15 cents.

Or at least that's what I assume; I couldn't yet count either.

One morning a few weeks ago I stepped outside and inhaled the sensuous, luxurious aroma of corn pollen and knew that sweet corn season was upon us.

I began to see an occasional sweet corn stand here and there. Before long, the countryside had more sweet corn stands than hay bales.

Which is good. Sweet corn is what enables us to endure this northern clime. It's what we look forward to during the cold, abysmal days of winter, when warmth and sunshine are but distant dreams.

Plus, eating sweet corn allows you to act like a barbarian, mooshing the ear noisily against your maw, the butter dribbling down your chin. It's nearly impossible to remain prim and proper while gnawing on an ear of corn. Sweet corn is thus a tremendous social equalizer.

And that flavor! Fresh sweet corn tastes like damp soil and balmy sunshine mixed with the distant rumble of midnight thunderstorms. It contains nuances of lazy afternoons, along with subtle intimations of muggy nights spent snoozing by an open window as a murmuring breeze caresses your eyelids.

We try to capture all of this, of course. We freeze and can sweet corn, hoping that we will open it up next winter and experience the same goodness we enjoyed last summer. Try as we might, it's never quite the same.

Sure, a person can buy sweet corn in the dead of winter at any supermarket. But that isn't real sweet corn. It was grown somewhere like Patagonia and is tough and tasteless and should be purchased only if you need a cob to make a pipe.

The stuff you buy in cans isn't much better. That corn has the feel of an industrial product, a substance which was strip mined then machined into something vaguely edible.

One spring I planted four rows of sweet corn in the middle of our south field. I hoped to thus fool the thieving critters who love sweet corn as much as we.

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