On corn on the cob

It seems strange to me to have corn on the cob any time that it isn’t fresh and fairly local, although to be fair I can’t say for sure that modern freezing or supermarket transportation makes it taste awful, because I’ve almost never tried under those conditions. I indulge for a few weeks every summer, just like strawberries and asparagus.

When I was young, about half our vegetable garden space was corn. We used to peel it outside while the water was heating up. We used to leave on the stems as handles, and if a handle was too long to go in the pot some of us would cry, and the grownups would eat that one. We’d roll the cooked corn in butter or margarine on our plates and add salt and pepper. Whoever was missing his or her front teeth that summer would need to have the kernels scraped off, but that was a far inferior way to eat it. We also used to buy it from farms and roadside produce stands, and we learned never to open it until we were ready to eat it. One year when my mother was planning a big August party in Muskoka, she even found a farm source of corn outside Bracebridge.

My family of choice also loved fresh corn, but their customs included breaking off all the handles, and using little prongs stuck in the ends to hold it by. I eventually convinced them to leave the handles on one or two for me. Also, they believed that the polite way to put the butter on was to take a pat of butter on your fork and rub it back and forth over the corn.

Around here, if you say “corn”, people say “Ah, Taber corn” and smile. I’ve never been clear on whether corn from Taber is the best, or the first, or the most readily-available, or what. It seems to be sold from pickup trucks on the sides of highways, mostly. This weekend I was wondering about going to a 5km race at the Taber Cornfest, but I looked up how far away Taber is (6+ hours driving) and decided not. So instead I bought some Taber corn. I’d seen the vendor peeling back the edges of other cobs before sorting them into bags, but I asked her not to open mine and she didn’t question that.

The trailer I bought mine from had a certificate posted, saying that it was official Taber/Medicine Hat corn, so I guess it’s like terroir or appellation controlĂ©e. A CBC article says that some of the corn sold in Edmonton is counterfeit, so it’s important to look for the certificate, and that one distributor said that any being sold before last Tuesday was fake. Well, I’m pretty sure the stand I went to was there when I was driving back from last Sunday’s race, so maybe their certificate is a forgery. And it’s really good corn.

I still don’t know, though. Is sweetcorn for human consumption also produced closer to home? Is Taber corn the first, the best, the biggest crops, or what? On Facebook yesterday, you might have seen me wondering whether Taber corn was like Leamington tomatoes. Leamington ON is known for tomatoes. It’s the southernmost agricultural region in all of Canada (Point Pelee sticks out from Leamington into Lake Erie). As a teenager I worked on a fruit and vegetable farm in the Niagara region. We used to buy Leamington tomatoes at the wholesaler for about two or three weeks before our own came in. I didn’t have the impression that Leamington tomatoes were better than ours, just that Leamington tomatoes started earlier and were a major cash crop for that region, moreso than in Niagara. But of course I was incredibly biased towards local agriculture in those days, to the point of wildly resenting my parents for having bought a house in a surburban development that used to be fruit-growing land before the mid-1950s.

So tell me about Taber corn. Or about your memories of corn on the cob. I have a car for tomorrow; is there some special pick-up truck where you get your Taber corn?

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