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Aug 4, 2003 02:50 PM

Farmstand etiquette

  • k

An annual plea to people who buy corn from farmstands.

Too many people rip perfectly good ears of corn open and throw it back on the pile. I was trained from my earliest years that this was profoundly rude, akin to taking a bit out of fruit at the market and putting it back, because it accelerates the drying and starching of the violated ear of corn.

You can tell a lot from just looking at and feeling the unopened ear. A lot. I never open an ear of corn, and though I buy a half dozen ears of corn virtually every week of the season, on average I get maybe one or two ears with some weirdness per season. And I have been doing this for at least 15 years running. Buy an extra ear if you are worried, but don't spoil the corn for everyone else, please.

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    1. Thank you!

      What are these jerks looking for, anyway? Most of the ears of corn they throw back on the pile look perfectly fine.

      I always just feel for a nice firm ear, and maybe buy one or two extra. I rarely get a dud.

      7 Replies
      1. re: Cloudy

        Sorry, guys, but ever since I had a bunch of giant ugly corn worms crawl out of the tops of some very expensive ears of farm stand corn, I have peeled back the top inch or so before buying. And I will continue to do so.

        1. re: Susan H

          I'm a peeler too, and I don't throw corn back unless the peeling shows worms or dried-out kernels.

          1. re: Bob W.

            maybe you should take these ears of corn to the people at the cash register or anyone who is wandering around offering help, instead of throwing a damaged product back for other people to buy. If you don't bring a problem to someone's attention its safe to assume that they can't help you.

            1. re: renee

              The problem from the store or stand's point of view is not people who find worms or damaged corn, it's people who throw back pretty good corn in hope of finding a better ear.

              1. re: rjka

                and those people are not thoughtful people, throwing back perfectly good food that they've had their hands all over and inside.

                1. re: renee
                  JK Grence (the Cosmic Jester)

                  Anyone who has been to a restaurant has no right to complain about someone else touching their food. If my memory serves me correctly, Julia Child had said that when served very artfully prepared food, she can't help but think that somebody's hands have been all over it.

              2. re: renee

                Fortunately my corn sense is so good that I rarely open a wormy ear.

                If you shop at a farm stand where wormy ears are a regular discovery, maybe a change of venue is in order.

        2. Contrarian, maybe -- but...

          Out here in Phila/S. Jersey, the corn (and tomatoes) are late. So, about two weeks ago, I went to one of my fav S. Jersey farms, this one has a store w/it. The corn kinda skimpy looking -- and expensive. So, I peeled back the very top of the silk just to get a peek at the tip of the ear. Sure nuff: Undeveloped kernels at the tip, *very* small kernels beneath. The corn shouldn't have been harvested -- or should at least have been accompanied by a disclaimer. I peeked at four. I ended up buying 1/2 dozen, expecting disappointment, and I wasn't disappointed in that expectation.

          Next week, tried a different produce farm store. Again checked the corn. I peeked at 2. These looked much better. I bought 2 doz. and was completely happy.

          I don't think it's fair to compare buying corn to buying fruit. A little squeeze will tell you more about an avocado or peach than an ear of corn. Nevertheless, I always try fruit before buying if I can (cherries, raspberries, blueberries). I'll even nibble a leaf of spinach, romaine, endive, to see if it merits a buy.

          Sorry, but to me, peeking at corn is part of the marketing process.

          6 Replies
          1. re: cinghiale
            Caitlin McGrath

            I'm with Karl on this one; it's easy enough to tell by feel through the husks and silk if the kernels are plump or undeveloped or missing, and whether they fill the whole cob. It's not a little squeeze, but running your thumb up and down and around the cob with enough pressure to feel the kernels inside. All it takes is a bit of practice, just like assessing any other fruit or vegetable does.

            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

              Yep. You described it well. Actually, it seems to be more accurate than visual inspection.

            2. re: cinghiale

              I'm with you. My Mom always peeked at a couple of ears before buying corn. She grew up on a farm, so I assume there's no ettiquette breech, at least from the farmer's perspective.

              1. re: danna

                In my experience, peeking is rare compared to ripping.... And that is wasted produce for the farmer.

                1. re: Karl S.

                  I'm sure you're right. Bad manners, stupidity and wastefulness do seem to be on the rise, whatever the venue.

                  Oooh, that sounded harsh, need to go get caffeine and sugar!

              2. re: cinghiale

                Don't squeeze the peaches! Even a gentle squeeze can ruin a perfectly good peach. Smell it instead...or ask the person running the stand to choose some good ones for you. If they choose well for you, be a repeat customer. I usually ask, "Are you here every week?", even when I know good and well that they are...but that puts them on notice that I may be looking for them again.

              3. I too take a little look--never so far as to peel the husk back, but sort of wending through the silk and top leaves, just to see the top few rows of kernals. Is that not okay? I'd hate to be ruining produce for the rest of the crowd, but I'd also hate to be bringing home bad corn!

                1 Reply
                1. re: Dupont

                  Most corn rippers that I witness do far more than that.

                2. I *HATE* that!!!
                  I have tried pointedly asking people why they throw back the (now ruined) ears that they do. It seems to me that they are just searching for "perfection". I like to soak my corn in the husk and grill them that way. I can't even remember when I last got a wormy ear. If I choose "badly" and the top is not great, I simply snap it off.
                  Thanks for letting me vent!

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: mirage

                    Mmmmm, yeah....corn grilled in the husk. Can't beat it.

                    1. re: GG Mora

                      When I BBQ corn I pull the husk back but not off, remove the silk, and add herbed butter, then put the husk back, you can use a piece of husk as a tie, and then BBQ....
                      As for checking corn at the market...I can usually tell a good ear by the weight , and if the silk is not too brown. If I get a worm when I get home it doesnt bother me! That's organic. But I do want ears with kernels that are small and tender! Last night I had to throw away 2 out of 5 ears because the kernels were actually dried out a bit, and they were from that mornings market. What if a farmer is trying to sell too old, big kerneled, too starchy corn? I hate to tell you all but I will be taking a little peek before I buy that farmer's corn again.
                      I agree that poking the corn is really disgusting.