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  • Writer's pictureAnnemarie Bolduc

My Sweet Corn

Updated: Feb 5

A little story of a Québécoise wishing to make her corn "épluchette" from her backyard in Oz!

Homegrown bicolour sweet corn • Photography © Bottle and Brush Studio 2022

In my previous article Corn "Épluchette", I wrote 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, mainly where I lived as a teenager, on Montreal Island's south shore flat lands. I also told 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 Québec summers…! Not only did I finally find some fresh locally grown golden maize (from Tumut, Batlow and Tumbarumba) at our local co-op, but I also harvested my bicolour sweet corn, which I had 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 maybe a water leak one year (from a house water pipe connection near the patch...), my bicolour corn was successful! After many failed trials with different varieties and different spots in the yard, this time there were no bugs, and the white and yellow kernels fully and beautifully covered the cob. This bicolour variety only produced one cob per plant, so we only had a few to enjoy. And that is the downside: the space and water you need versus what you will harvest might not be the best choice as a sustainable crop. But if you grow climbing beans around them, you'll find the corn plant beneficial as they provide support, and the beans will add nitrogen. When the plant dies out, you can use it to mulch. They are so worth it for the taste, as there is nothing like this fresh bicolour corn. My Aussie husband told me it was the best corn he ever had! And what I do is so simple: I just boil them to eat straight on the cob with 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 with much to say about it as it is produced massively worldwide for many industries. I’ll stay with the backyard-grown fresh vegetables for this post. Fresh sweet corn cobs can be boiled, steamed or grilled. The old-fashioned French Canadian way is pretty simple and easy and an affordable seasonal treat to offer to a summer party. Kids or guests enjoy the peeling, and the peeled cobs go in boiling water until the kernels are tender (only for 7 minutes). Once cooked, they are rubbed on a piece of butter and sprinkled with table salt. When making corn on the cob in our Australian backyard, I love using a pinch of my garden salt blends, especially Garlic and Herb salt. In Québec’s colder seasons, corn kernels are used from tins or frozen and 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 the Harvest Parmentier recipe). You can remove the kernel from the cobs by hand or with a knife. If you have chooks, leave them the end bits as a treat!


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 wanted to try this following visiting the First Nation's Wendake village in Québec. Space-wise, it was a bit tricky to make in my backyard, as corn is best if grown in blocks to help pollinate with the wind. The wind also sounds lovely passing through the plant, 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 made a small patch with the "two sisters" and used rope to tighten them after one had fallen following strong winds... The beans growing on the natural trellis of the corn plants are so productive and looking "a-maizing" together on my front lawn!


The two sisters corn and beans • Photography © Bottle and Brush Studio 2021-22



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