The corn crop in North County is so sweet that many growers say that, when they want a treat, they just pluck a ripe ear from the stalk and eat it like candy.
That fresh, locally grown corn is available to consumers throughout summer and into fall because growers plant every two weeks beginning in spring.
Among the places you can buy sweet white corn is Rancho Vera near Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside. Vera Kawano's corn is also sold by her daughter, Kim Walters, at her vegetable stand on Raymond Avenue in Ramona.
The Kawanos lease more than 5 acres in Vista and Fallbrook for corn production. The hundreds of rows of stalks are in various stages of growth. Some rows show only tiny green buds, other stalks are ready for picking. Each stalk is meant to produce two ears of corn. Any additional buds are gently nipped off by hand, so as not to sap the plant's energy. Each stalk must be topped off, again by hand.
"Our corn is so sweet that I eat it right off the stalk when I'm hungry," Kawano said.
Like Kawano, Penny Yasuda, general manager of Strawberry Tree, a stand off Manchester Avenue in Cardiff, eats her fresh corn uncooked. She favors the Silver Queen variety. "We plant two weeks apart," she said, "and we pick when it's real young and tender."
The corn is grown in the fields behind the stand and is picked early in the day. Production has been a little erratic because of the weather, said Yasuda, although she expects to have corn available until September.
Customers at the Chestnut Produce stand in Carlsbad request the two-toned, yellow and white corn by a variety of names. "Everyone calls it by a different name. It's a two-tone corn which is tender and very sweet," said Peggy Torres, who owns the stand with her husband, Robert. "Some people call it cream and sugar, honey and cream or sweet buttermilk corn."
Richard Borevitz of Gourmet Gardens in San Marcos sells the bicolor sweet buttermilk corn, more by customer demand than by conviction. "Everyone wants white corn, but color doesn't make the corn. It's the size of the kernels, and the number of rows which indicates tenderness," said Borevitz.
Rather than growing regular-sized ears of corn, Andrea Peterson of Peterson and Pio Specialty Produce, prefers to concentrate on baby corn, mainly for the wholesale market.
Miniature corn, still a gourmet item by Western standards, is an essential ingredient in Chinese stir-fry dishes.
Because it is usually sold unhusked, baby corn stays fresh for up to a week in the refrigerator. Peterson likes to use it in stir-fries, steam them a little in the microwave, or simply marinate it in oil and vinegar to add to a salad.
Rancho Vera, a half mile east of Mission San Luis Rey, Oceanside, north side of the road. 439-6707. Call for special orders. Stand open 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m., including Sundays. Three ears for $1.25.
Strawberry Tree, 3111 Manchester Ave., Cardiff. 436-6015. Six ears for $2.50.
Peterson and Pio Specialty Produce, (619) 439-6466. Sells to wholesalers and at Vista Farmer's Market. Baby corn, 10 cents an ear.
Robert and Peggy Torres, Chestnut Produce stand, on Chestnut Street, a half block west of Highland Avenue, Carlsbad. 729-2361. Open Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., or until sold out. Five ears for $2.
Ramos vegetable stand, 2461 E. Vista Way (across from Exotica Nursery), Vista. 941-1387, evenings. White corn and fresh baby corn. Stand open daily 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Closed Sunday. Call for availability.
Gourmet Gardens, 2050 Sycamore, San Marcos. 744-5064. Stand open Wednesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. in season. Twelve ears for $5, or 50 cents an ear.