August 20, 2012

Points East: Coming out our ears

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — If you want to get glared at or even stared down, stop my wife on the street and ask her how much sweet corn she’d like to have you put in the trunk of her car.

    Last Saturday it had become pretty obvious that we couldn’t put the bodacious harvest off any longer.  We’d been eating on it for nearly two weeks and sharing with friends and family but, by the end of last week, it had become obvious that the rest of the crop needed to come out of the patch if we wanted to freeze any before it started getting tough.

The great thing about “bodacious,” the variety I’ve been growing for more than 20 years, is that it keeps well on the stalk much longer than other varieties I have grown and thereby offers some flexibility in terms of timing the big push to preserve it.  The other great asset is that, as far as Loretta and I and our family are concerned, no other sweet corn rivals it for taste and texture.

By the middle of July, I was having serious doubts that we were going to have any corn at all.  

We had a 33-day stretch here on Lowell Branch where the daytime temperature did not get below 96 and, during which time, we did not get a drop of rain.  It rained all around us but not on Charlie Brown Road.  I packed water in a five gallon bucket, 100 gallons or more at a time, and watered the corn at the edge of dark by pouring water from a quart cup on the roots but I finally gave up and resigned myself to the notion that I had tried as hard as a one-armed man can try.

Finally, up toward the end of the July after I had completely given up, we got a nice, soaking rain but even then I thought it was too little, too late.  But the bodacious proved itself to be resilient. The stalks were stunted and most of the ears were only half as large as they would have been under normal circumstances and I was beyond elated that we were going to have a crop at all.

As usual, we procrastinated about getting it to the freezer until, as I already said, we didn’t have any choice.  So last Saturday, the most pleasant day by far that we have had this summer, Chris pulled my big garden wagon to the edge of the corn patch and we began picking corn. It took us nearly an hour but when we were finished the wagon, which is 5 feet long, 44 inches wide and 18 inches deep, was heaped so high it wouldn’t hold another ear.  Somewhere in the neighborhood of 7 bushels plus I had two five gallon buckets full that we couldn’t get on the wagon.

Loretta put up a beach umbrella and we commenced shucking corn in the front yard. I commenced calling family and friends to see if they wanted any corn.  Good friend and super neighbor, Joe Brown came over to get a dozen ears and jumped right in to help with the shucking and silking. By mid-afternoon our sinks, two 48 quart coolers and every other container Loretta could find were scattered about the kitchen stuffed with sweet corn.  

I had piled 8 dozen or so of the larger, select ears on the porch unshucked to give to our daughters, Loretta’s sisters and other friends and family.  While I headed to town to fetch two 20 pound bags of ice, Loretta started boiling corn in two big industrial sized stock pots. She brings the corn to a boil, dumps it in the sink, covers it with ice for a few minutes, slices it off the ear, stuffs it into freezer bags and then stuffs the freezer.  

The serious cooking started before 3 p.m.  At 2 a.m. Sunday morning Loretta was still in the kitchen freezing corn and she still had a cooler full to go when she ultimately decided that enough was enough.  

Late Sunday afternoon, we drove to Berea and Richmond to spread around what was left over.

Somewhere along the way, I mentioned that there wouldn’t be very much in my late crop.

“You’d better have plans for your late crop that don’t involve your wife,” she snarled.

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Now that school is out, what are your family’s summer vacation plans?

A. No major plans. We will probably hang out around Laurel County.
B. Going to the beach!
C. Kentucky has a lot of wonderful state parks, and we plan to visit a few and enjoy quality family time.
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