Yearning for Yellow Corn
Yellow corn (ie all yellow kernels) has always seemed to have been available in Toronto up until the mid-nineties. In fact, I remember an article in the Toronto Star from the early 90's describing the 8 types of corn readily available in Toronto and how they tasted.
Sadly, now all I ever see is peaches and cream corn. Although tasty too, I am not sure why this is now the only corn available now. Maybe it's the same situation as when Ford thought that all people wanted was red cars. Turned out dealers were overstocked with red cars but that was one of the only cars customers could get instantly without having to wait a few months. So, even if they didn't like the colour that much, they bought the red car. Ford saw how many red cars were being sold and shipped more red cars to dealers and the cycle continued leading them to believe that was the colour people actually wanted. They didn't. Is it this what happened with peaches and cream corn such that that is all that is being planted now?
Where are all the varieties we used to have? Does anyone know where I can get corn other than peaches and cream, especially yellow corn?
I yearn for the yellow corn I used to eat all the time, especially when I was a child.
I was at the Dufferin Grove Organic market today and I bought some organic "yellow" corn. The farmer was one of the ones fairly close to the start of the market on the north west side. "Yellow" was the name of the corn given on the sign and by the farmer (maybe the farmer's son? He was very young, maybe 13?). It was $10 for a dozen or $1 for a cob. I bought 3 cobs and the kernels are all yellow, on the small side and very sweet and juicy. They are much nicer than the bicolour variety found in the supermarket. I did a taste test and both myself and my DH preferred the yellow corn.
2917 Dufferin St, Toronto, ON M6B3S7, CA
I bought some Trinity, an early variety of bi-colour corn, the other day at Strom's Farm in Guelph. This farm specializes in corn and grows about 11 varieties, including yellow (which will be available later in the season). The corn I bought was delicious (it's picked every two hours for sale at the farm store) and I look forward to trying their other varieties as the season progresses.
Regarding "peaches and cream" corn, the following is from Strom's website:
"We've been letting our customers in on the secret of Peaches and Cream for years. Many road-side stands offer "Peaches and Cream". The truth is that they are most likely passing off any bi-colour variety they get in as "Peaches and Cream". Peaches and Cream was a variety produced in small garden envelopes for backyard growers. It never made it to commercial production, but somehow the name did. If you ask for Peaches and Cream at Strom's, you're likely to be corrected! Don't be offended, just smile and nod your head: they like talking about corn."
I just bought a dozen corn from a stand on Birchmount south of Finch I believe. It was a guy selling out of a pickup truck, corn was $5 a dozen and it was sweet corn, all yellow kernels. They were kinda small I must admit so I took probably 14 or 15(shhh!), but im gonna try em soon and ill let you know how it is!
Bit of a hike, but there used to be a farm on the south side of Major Mac between Bathurst and Dufferin (name escapes me at the moment - they had a winery there too). Sold out for millions to developers a few years ago, but retained a spot on the north side where they have a small market. They always had yellow (along with bi-colour) corn supersweet corn - you just have to ask. Haven't been this year, so don't know if they have anything yet.
Just brought and ate Peaches and cream corn from Willowtree farm and Sweet corn from Thames River Farm at the Mel Lastman Square Farmers' market. The sweet corn is bi-colour, very starchy and super sweet and much better than the ones you get from Loblaws.
The Peach and Cream corn is labled as supersweet by Willowtree but it pales compare to the sweet corn but it is very crispy and less starchy. I prefer the sweet corn.
I was going through some old files and found the Toronto Star article on corn. It's dated August 12, 1992 and entitled "We're All Ears" by Marion Kane. 9 kinds of Ontario corn were tasted and they were (with rating in * listed after, more * means higher rating):
Supersweet (60% of the corn crop at that time, very high sugar content, amazing shelf life, but tough kernels)
Northern Supersweet (yellow) *****
Topscotch (bi-colour) *****
Sugar-enhanced (35% sugar, 15% of corn crop at that time):
Stokes #3464 (yellow) **
Speedy Sweet (bi-colour) ****
Ivanhoe (bi-colour) *
Sokes #3346 (white) **
Normal (10-15% sugar, but sugar converts to starch hours after being picked):
Seneca Horizon (yellow) ***
Metis Horizon (bi-colour) ****
Caspar II (white) *
The article mentions that Normal corn was most of Ontario's crop up until about 1982 and also that 'Peaches and Cream' corn is NOT (they used caps too) a category of corn. All bi-colour corn is not Peaches and Cream and that variety was simply the first bi-colour variety developed. In fact bi-colour could be any of 100 varieties of corn.
It mentions that picking your own corn is the best way and that Puck's Farm in King Township (still in existence) had, at that time, organic corn ready to pick yourself about the end of August, but I don't know if they still grow the corn (but will call and report back).
If anyone knows where I can pick my own corn or buy right from the farmer near Toronto that would be great (and especially where other varieties might be available) whether pick your own or not.
Two farms with fresh fruit and vegetables are Whittamore's, 8100 Steeles Av. East, http://www.whittamoresfarm.com/pick.htm
and Stroud's, Taunton and Lakeridge http://www.stroudfarms.ca/.
The corn is picked daily at Stroud's by laborers from Central America, and is available around July 1 most years. Len Stroud is usually around to talk to customers.
The best corn I ever had was last year out in prince edward county, it was "white corn" we got at this old lady's farm stand. i was shocked when i peeled back the husk to reveal pearl coloured kernels, and the taste, my god, super sweet, soft and buttery, you didn't even have to add anything.
There are three main types of sweet corn on the cob corn: regular sugar, sugar enhanced and super sweet. Within each of these groups you can get either yellow, white or bi-colour corn. The regular sugar corn has the shortest shelf life, and needs to have the pot of water boiling before you pick the cobs. The sugar enhanced and super sweet have sugar molecules that take longer to change into starches, therefore they are shipped more often.
Within each of these three groups are many flavours and names of corn. Peaches and cream is referred to the bi-colour varieties, of which there are many. Many farmers who sell at farmers markets do grow more than one variety, but call the bi-colour P&C because that is what the customer wants. Often, I ask them which corn they prefer themselves. And yes, most often it is a yellow variety, not "peaches and cream".
This and other older, less popular varieties are around. Problem is, you go to the corn rather than the corn coming to you. Small farmers' markets just outside the GTA and beyond are usually the best places to find offbeat produce.Too many GTA farmers' markets rely on the Food Terminal--the antithesis of variety.
I remember the early hybrids, like Golden Bantam. They could not be sold commercially because they had a shelf life of 25 minutes, and they became stodgy and overripe if left on the plant.
A niche market exists in the U.S. for white corn (Silver Queen) but it never caught on here. But that is what P&C haters seek out, not yellow varieties.
It is not too late to plant yellow varieties; the seed should be available from seed banks or vegetable heirloom clubs.
You're right, TJ: the older varieties of corn lose their sweetness within as little as 30 minutes; the newer varieties, like peaches & cream, have been bred to stay sweet for a much longer time. Unfortunately, they're often very sweet with little true corn flavour.
And don't get me started on red vs. white grapefruits...