My Sweet Corn
Updated: Nov 21, 2022
A little story of a Québécoise wishing to make her corn "épluchette" from her backyard in Oz!
In my previous article Corn "Épluchette", I was writing about the Québec traditional corn on the cob parties and the delicious bicolour variety we buy from farm road stalls at the end of summer. Corn fields are everywhere in Québec, especially where I lived as a teenager, on the south shore flat lands of Montreal Island. I was also telling how corn cobs are always available in Australia's supermarkets, but I rarely find any locally grown in our region's farmer's markets. However, in the latest seasons following drought and bushfires, the weather was mild with plenty of rain. It almost felt like a Québec summer…! Not only did I finally find some fresh locally grown golden maize (from Tumut, Batlow and Tumbarumba) at our local co-op, but I finally harvested my bicolour sweet corn, grown at home.
Corn on the cob, a Québec summer tradition • Photo © Bottle and Brush Studio 2019-22
I had sown some "Snow Gold" bicolour corn in one of my front lawn patches, along with some snap beans as a companion plant. Thanks to the beans, the sun, plenty of wind, plenty of rain from La Nina, and a water leak (from a house water pipe connection near the patch...), my bicolour corn was a success, for once! After many unsuccessful trials with different varieties, there were no bugs and the white and yellow kernels were fully and beautifully covering the cob. This bicolour variety only produced one cob per plant so we only had a few for us to enjoy. And we did! After cooking the first ones, my Aussie husband told me it was the best corn he ever had… and I admit he was right! I simply boiled them to eat straight on the cob with a bit of butter and salt. This is the French Canadian way.
Enjoying some freshly picked corn • Photography © Bottle and Brush Studio 2022
GROWING & COOKING TIPS
Corn is a multi-purpose wheat vegetable and there is a lot to say about it as it is largely produced around the world for many kinds of industries. I’ll just stay with the backyard-grown fresh vegetable for this post. Fresh sweet corn cobs can be simply boiled, steamed or grilled. This old-fashioned French Canadian way is simply to peel the husk (in Québec summer parties, kids or guests enjoy the peeling in the yard), put the cobs in boiling water and simmer until kernels are tender (only for 7 minutes). Once cooked, they are simply rubbed on a piece of butter and sprinkled with table salt. When I make our own corn on the cob in our Australian backyard, I prefer using a pinch of my garden salt blends, especially Garlic and Herb salt. In Québec’s colder seasons, corn kernels are mostly used from tins or frozen and they are one of the three essential ingredients of the traditional shepherd’s pies. I have made a delicious version using fresh corn, beans and homegrown potatoes (see recipe Harvest Parmentier recipe). To remove the kernel from the cobs, you can do it by hand or with a knife. I like leaving some on the end bits as a treat for the chooks!
Everyone enjoying fresh sweet corn • Photography © Bottle and Brush Studio 2021-22
The Native American “Three Sisters” companion planting technique that the indigenous peoples have taught new settlers was to grow corn surrounded with beans and squash, to benefit each other with support, soil amendment and soil moisture. I really wanted to try this following a visit to the First Nation's Wendake village in Québec. It was a bit tricky to make in my backyard, space-wise, as corn is best if grown in blocks to help pollinate with the wind. The wind sounds lovely passing through the plant as well, but if the wind is too strong, a small block of the tall plant (that can reach 2.5 meters) could easily be damaged. I still managed to make a small "two sisters" patch and used rope to tighten them after one had fallen following strong winds... The beans growing on the natural trellis of the corn plants were so productive and looking "a-maizing" together on my front lawn! When the plant dies off, you can use it for mulching the garden, especially if grown organically. You can also let some cobs mature and dry for ornamental displays. And then you hope the following year will be as great to grow your own sweet corn again!
The two sisters corn and beans • Photography © Bottle and Brush Studio 2021-22
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