It took all but one taste to convince Frank Weaver, Jr. that Ohio has the best sweet corn on the planet.
YOU CAN CALL it milk and honey, bread and butter, salt and pepper or whatever. I call it silver and gold. Regardless, it matters not. What matters most is that it's some of the best sweet corn produced on the mainland of these contiguous 48 states and the southern part of Canada. Folks, I'm talking about Buckeye Silver and Gold, the white and yellow sweet corn that's grown right here in the northeastern part of Ohio and that is abso-tutely-lutely delicious.
As many of you know, I originally hail from southeastern Pennsylvania, just east of Gettysburg. Ol' Pete Meiler, a German farmer with a spread about a mile away from our farm grew great sweet corn. He'd run an ad in the paper announcing when the corn was ready and we'd buy it for 30 cents a dozen or pick it for 20 cents. Naturally, with a total of 12 in the family, we picked it. On the weekends when Dad had his three day corn roasts, we'd pick 60 to 80 dozen. And Ol' Pete would always make sure they were all bakers' dozens.
Until I arrived in Ohio many, many moons ago, I thought the Pennsylvania Dutch were the grand masters at growing good, tender, sweet corn. The Adams, York, Lancaster county area grew corn that we considered to be some of the best. Of course, those who still think of it as that, have never tasted Buckeye Silver and Gold. I was guilty of thinking the same as those locals do. But, of course, that was long before I ever arrived in Ohio.
Over the past 14 years I've covered this subject before in this column. But never about sweet corn this good. No, this time it's a good bit different. Because I've never sunk my choppers into a more succulent ear of corn than I did the other evening at our dinner meal. As impressed as I have been in the past with Ohio grown corn, this time I was fortunate enough, I believe, to experience the mother of all sweet corns. With adequate rain, this year's crop made an indelible mark on the taste buds of my tongue and in the gray matter of my culinary memory bank. After devouring three full ears in record breaking time, how could I forget?
I used to shop around, looking for good corn from one end of the map to the other. I'd search for the most tender, mature, kernels, the tastiest flavor and the perfect blend of sweetness in home grown corn. Being raised on a farm and understanding the nature of the beast, I was not about to compromise my culinary values with hard, stale, starchy corn. It had to have been picked that day. If not, the sweetness would turn to starch and the corn would lose its tenderness.
Page 2 of 3 - I suppose I get my passion for good tender corn from my father. But, then, he always favored Silver Queen – a white sweet corn. Of course, back in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, bi-color corn wasn't available. But when I did take my first bite of white-and-yellow corn, I was convinced it had it all over the white corn.
For years I'd drive down to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and buy my corn from the local farmer who had a vegetable stand and store along Riverview Road, and who always picked it fresh every day. Of course that was before Andy Figley opened his Figaro fresh food market on East Turkeyfoot Lake Road (state Route 619), just west of Cottage Grove Road in the Portage Lakes.
Figley grows his own corn both here in Summit County on land he owns right behind his Portage Lakes store. He also has access to available farm land in the southern part of the state near Marietta. By planting early in southern Ohio, he gets a two to three week jump on others who just plant in the northern part of the state. Early each day he has it picked and hauled that same morning to his Portage Lakes market for those customers like me who love freshly picked sweet corn. Figley understands our passion for fresh corn and knows only the very best of corn will do. The southern Ohio corn is hauled fresh daily until his local corn is ready for picking.
I'm not sure what brand or hybrid Figley planted in the fields this year behind his store, but I hope he never changes. I credit the local farmers with perfection in knowing how to raise good corn. That and a good growing season. My wife, Peggy, says it's all in what the farmers feed their crops. She says they use natural fertilizer from Ohio's Amish farms. Whatever! I do know this was the most tender, sweetest, most delicious sweet corn I've ever eaten. And since his fields are almost right in my back yard, there's no longer any need to drive to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park to buy corn.
I ate three ears tonight, slathered it with real, genuine, 100 percent butter (not margarine or soft tub spread), salted and peppered it, and folks, it was so tender there was very little need for me to use my choppers, but I did. The corn was free of worms and not rotten, withered or had any undeveloped kernels to cut away. Peggy dropped them in boiling water for three to five minutes and this corn almost melted in my mouth.
Dad always taught us that as soon as you pull the corn off the stalk the chemical process starts turning the sugar to starch. That's what makes it taste starchy and lose its tenderness. But over the years corn production has improved. No longer is that the case. The next evening I devoured the remaining three ears, and folks, it just doesn't get any better than that. That's how tender and sweet they were.
Page 3 of 3 - Each year at the family reunion in July, my brothers and sisters serve Adams, York, Lancaster county home grown sweet corn. And each year I promise myself to surprise them by bringing in a few dozen ears of Buckeye Silver and Gold. If I could be guaranteed I wouldn't be disowned, shunned or treated as an outcast, I'd do it, because they are as passionate about their local corn as I am about ours. But then they've never had any of ours so they probably don't know any better.
This year Figaro's corn crop is outstanding. Kudos to Andy Figley. In my book he's achieved near perfection with his Buckeye Silver and Gold.
Comments may be emailed to: Frankweaverjr@aol.com