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  • Writer's pictureAnnemarie Bolduc

Corn “Épluchette”

Updated: Feb 5

Québec corn season is the golden hour of summer and time for the “Épluchette de blé d’Inde”!

Sweet corn stall at Marché Jean-Talon, Montréal, Québec • Photography © Bottle and Brush Studio 2019

The “épluchette de blé d’Inde” is an old Québec tradition that basically means a corn husking party. Sweet corn harvest is from mid-July to October but August is the peak time to buy fresh cobs grown in abundance all over the province. With the husk on, it’s sold by the half dozen, dozen or large pouches and can be found at road stalls and urban farmers' markets in most regions. Boiled and eaten on the cob, this makes an easy and affordable food for outdoor dinner parties with a convivial buffet of barbecue dishes and salads. Guests and kids enjoy the husking; this is why it is called an épluchette (from the French word éplucher, which means peeling). Blé d’Inde (Indian wheat) is the term that Europeans gave corn when they discovered the American continent, believing they were in India. The term is still used by older generations, but “maïs” is the proper word for corn, which sounds closer to maize and is pronounced “mayeesse”. Indigenous farming, and what became a significant production in the eastern part of Canada, is a long story written in many books. In Québec fields, there are many varieties grown and produced for different uses other than fresh food - like grains for animal feed, popcorn, ornaments and flour for many types of products. The fresh favourite sweet corn varieties (sold at most markets in the regions I’m from) are bicolour kernels, yellow and white, and they are just delicious.

Family time and corn on the cob in Québec • Photography © Bottle and Brush Studio 2019

So far, since I moved to Australia, my Québec visits only occur during winter here, so that means summer over there. It is fantastic to re-discover some food traditions that were just normal but now special. During my 2019 visit to my family, I enjoyed taking some photographs featuring corn. I had a great time with my nephew husking the maize my mum had bought locally for our corn-on-the-cob lunch at the cottage. It just felt like the old days! I also captured some market stalls surrounding the Montreal region and made golden hour shots of the fields with my dad (who is a nature photographer). Corn has been farmed in Australia for human and animal consumption for years but the domestic market remains smaller. I have rarely found sweet corn cobs in our region's summer farmers' markets but sometimes did in yellow varieties. Australian sweet corn is sold in supermarkets all year long. They are sometimes cut as “cobbettes”. Those are small pieces of cob cuts served with a meat dish and other steamed veggies on many pub-style menus. Otherwise, corn kernels are used in many versatile ways, and corn fritters seem to be the most popular. In Québec, corn kernels from tins or frozen are one of the three essential ingredients of our humble shepherd’s pies (that are called in French Pâté Chinois and that is another story).

Corn fields and farmer's market stalls • Photography © Bottle and Brush Studio 2019

More about sweet corn and my homegrown corn story on this post: "My Sweet Corn".

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