While winter may be coming on "Game of Thrones", at the farmers market, summer is here. How do I know? Because I saw fresh corn from the Imperial Valley stacked deep Sunday.
Summer has many signifiers — tomatoes, melons, peaches — but perhaps none ignites a shopping frenzy the way corn does. Buyers crowded around the table, ripping off husks, tossing good ears one direction and less-good another.
In the corner, the farmer whimpered (please, folks, use the tips below for choosing corn rather than shredding through the pile, leaving half of them unsalable).
People believe all kinds of silliness about fresh corn: that it needs to be cooked as soon as its picked or it won't be sweet; that white corn is better than yellow, or vice versa.
In the first place, these day smost of the corn you'll buy will be pretty sweet, even if it was harvested a couple of days ago. Thanks to the work of some ingenious plant breeders, new varieties of corn don't convert sugar to starch with nearly the speed they used to.
Of course, lovers of old-timey corn now claim that these new types lack the creamy texture and "corny" flavor of the cobs of their childhoods, and there is truth to both of those complaints.
When it comes to which color of corn is sweeter, the answer is: both. Whether you prefer white or yellow corn has more to do with what you learned where you were brought up (and which old varieties were prevalent there), than any actual flavor difference.
For most of us, the best way to cook fresh corn is grilled on the cob. It's probably not coincidental that this is also the easiest. Here's what you do: Soak corn in its husk in water for a half-hour; put it on the grill, turning every 5 minutes or so to cook evenly. It'll be done when the husks have dried and started to blacken and the color of the kernels have intensified, about 25 minutes.
Shuck the corn after cooking. You'll notice the silk comes away with the husk without a problem. Something so good that's so easy – it's just another summer miracle.
Here are 12 recipes — grilled and not — to get you started.
How to choose: Look for silky tassels that are still moist and not dried out. Feel through the husk and the kernels should be swollen and distinct. Peel back just the tip of the husk and make sure the tips are filled out (you don't need to shuck the whole ear — that makes farmers cranky, and justifiably so).
How to store: Refrigerate corn, tightly wrapped, still in its husks. Try to keep it away from strong-scented foods because it will absorb odors quite readily.