Missing the Sweet Corn Craze

There’s probably no other occasion in the Midwest produce season quite like the beginning of the sweet corn crop.  So you can understand my frustration, when, everywhere I turn, I see some guy (or usually kid) at the side of the road selling sweet corn, and I find my own to be a few days short of ripe.  People have been asking me about sweet corn easily for the last 4 weeks even though it would take some kind of magic corn to be ripe at the beginning of July.  I keep thinking these “fake roadside stands” that simply truck in corn from Iowa and Nebraska really early are messing with people’s sense of season and sense of what we can actually grow in Minnesota, especially when they put sweet corn next to some peaches next to cherries in mid-July.  Still, when actual local growers are at the side of the road, I have no excuse.

Sweet Corn on Lida Farm

Raising produce commercially is often a huge juggle where each year one crop or another under or over-performs.  I’m always out in the fields telling myself “That should have gotten in the ground 10 days earlier” or “Man, I should have weeded that patch earlier.”  Throw in some interesting weather-a little hail here and there-and I really should be amazed that any crops come at all.  The trick in what we do is to keep as many of those balls in the air as possible and keep all of them moving forward and growing.  I commonly work through 5-7 different tasks a day in June and July (maybe starting with cultivating on the tractor, hand weeding a few crops, then moving to wheel hoe a couple other beds, etc). If I get stuck too long on any one crop or job, I can easily miss the window to take care of another crop, and, yes, sometimes a crop just gets written off.  So, in the context of all this juggling of 60+ different crops, sweet corn appearing a bit late shouldn’t be the end of the world, but I still feel a bit like a professional musician who missed hitting a C chord on stage.

In the box:
Norland Red Potatoes
Bunch of Carrots
Green Beans
Fresh Oregano: Tiny fragrant bunch of greens with a red band
Fennel: The frawns (greens) has a pretty strong anise flavor, but the bulb itself is more mild (see recipe below)
Peppers: One Islander (purple) and a couple green

Fennel goes especially well with chicken and fish.  Here’s a simple recipe using chicken: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/31/dining/313lrex.html

Farm Stand Now Open

We’ve opened the farm stand for the season (open now through October).

The tomatoes are starting to come in as well as the corn.  It’s not as bountiful yet as the picture from last year, but we do have cherry tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, sweet onions, and potatoes with more variety in the weeks to come.

The stand is open 7 days a week and self-serve at the end of our driveway on the farm.

Bugs for 2011

Every year we generally see the same kinds of bugs, however, every year brings new variations and the 2011 season is no different.

The big change this season that I have never seen before is grubworms in the potatoes.  Yes, the same ugly white grubs that you may find in your sod when you tear up your lawn.  A potato or two may have gotten past me and into your box where a crater is eaten into the side…that’s the grub’s signature handiwork.  My neighbor of 70-plus years has never seen this, so it makes me wonder what’s going on.  Is it just the hot soil temps which cause them to thrive?

The potato bugs are worse than usual, but cucumber beetles are just not to be seen.  This is a situation I can live with since the cucumber beetles are very tough on a large family of produce from melons to winter squash.  Slugs, on the other hand, have been taking their toll.  It’s strange though, since this is the first year I’ve ever seen them.  They messed with the strawberry crop a bit and I see them in the tomatoes too, but nothing we can’t manage.  I hope it stays that way.

News: We’ll be hosting a work day for members this Sunday afternoon (anytime between 1-4 – weather permitting).  This is by no means mandatory, but a chance to visit the farm and get your hands dirty.  Come if you can.
In the Box:
Purple pepper: always the first pepper for some reason.
Sweet corn: not a dozen yet, but it was typical “hunt and peck” exercise when a crop first comes in.  I always think there’s more there than there actually is.
Cherry tomatoes: most are an orange variety I really like called “sungold,” but there are also some Isis ans traditional red cherry tomatoes in the mix too.
Yukon potatoes
Red onions

Corn Harvest (CSA Week 8)

Things really get crazy for us this time of year. This is the time when I either get reinvigorated by all the great produce which is coming in or I “hit the wall.” I don’t know which way I’m going to go this year, but I appreciate all the things which are finally coming in. This is the first week of tomatoes-albeit only cherry tomatoes and small yellows-as well as good-sized carrots, peppers, and sweet corn. Man, that’s exciting…sweet corn. I’ve only had people asking about sweet corn at the farmers market for about 6 weeks (people get impatient and I run out of excuses), so now it’s finally here.

I have a real love-hate relationship with picking sweet corn. What I love about it is that it’s the first thing I do when I go out to get ready for the CSA or market. This is that time of the morning when I’m all by myself and it’s really peaceful out. Still, I like the action of grasping, pulling, and twisting off cobs in one motion…something really feels good about it. Unlike other crops, corn is really satisfying because you go from an empty crate to a full one in about 15 minutes instead of something like beans where you feel like you’re filling up a mason jar one grain of sand at a time. This is why I have Maree pick all those things 🙂 Like the yellow beans in the box this week and last week…as you see from the picture Mar is trying her hand at pickling them this week. My patience is only so good.
On the other hand, picking corn first thing in the morning can be a cold, wet ordeal. If any of you had to do this, you know what I’m talking about. First thing in the morning, the dew is really heavy, and, instead of sitting in the comfort of home, drinking a cup of coffee and reading the paper, you’re outside wresting 6-foot tall corn plants, getting your clothes soaked through, and getting these little cuts on your arms from the leaves.
All told, I like it more than dislike it. Even when I’m not in the mood, I still like to step back and admire the harvest in the packing shed over some coffee. It just feels good.
In the box:
Sweet corn: There is a mix of two early varieties. The bi-color (white and yellow) is called Native Gem and the all-yellow is called Spring Treat (far from spring, but Mid-August treat just doesn’t sound as good).
Yellow Wax Beans
Flat Italian Beans
Red Onion
Carrots: A variety called Little Finger…a fresh eating variety which should not be too big.
A couple cucumbers
Tomato sampler: Some cherries (one variety called sungold is supposed to be orange), a grape if you’re lucky, a couple yellow Taxi, and a few Julia roma tomatoes. Not many, but a start
Some peas: a mix of snow and snap peas, so the pods of each are edible…so don’t try to shell.

Gourmet | August 2009

by Maggie Ruggiero

Sure, go ahead and cook your favorite sausages, but be sure to use every iota of their flavor: Reheat the skillet and work some pork-based magic on a seasonal array of onion, fennel, tomatoes, and corn.

Yield: Makes 4 servings
Active Time: 20 min
Total Time: 35 min


4 (5-to 6-ounces) fresh pork sausages
1/3 cup water
3/4 cup chopped sweet onion
1 medium fennel bulb, chopped
1 cup grape tomatoes (5 oz)
2 ears corn, kernels cut from cob
1/4 cup coarsely chopped dill


Prick sausages a few times. Simmer with water in a 12-inch heavy skillet, covered, over medium heat 7 minutes. Uncover and cook, turning occasionally, until water has evaporated and sausages are well browned and cooked through, 7 to 10 minutes more. (You may need to add 1 tablespoon oil to skillet, depending on sausages.) Transfer sausages to a plate and pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from skillet if necessary.

Cook onion, fennel, and tomatoes with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in skillet over medium heat, stirring and scraping up brown bits, until onion and fennel are crisp-tender and tomatoes are soft and beginning to burst, about 7 minutes. Add corn and dill and sauté 2 minutes.

Slice sausages and serve with vegetables.

I figured this would be good if you’re still holding onto some fennel from last week.