The Big Corn Paradox

Corn_field

Taken at just another huge, local corn field

This might be the best summer recipe ever:

Grilled Summer Corn

ingredients

  • Fresh picked corn, still in the husks
  • Sea Salt

method

Pick them. Grill them, ASAP, still in the husks. Eat them, maybe with a pinch of salt.

There’s nothing better than fresh corn. I absolutely love it, and I’m not alone. Everyone I know loves it. This time of year it’s one of the best selling item in the produce world. Peaches, cherries and corn; in the summer everything else is an also-ran.

I love corn but I don’t grow any. I need to grow corn but I can’t grow corn. Thinking about it hurts my brain.

Imagine a small town with a single male barber. Let’s say all the men are close shaven. Let’s also say this barber shaves all and only the men who don’t shave themselves. The question then becomes: Does this barber shave himself?

Alternatively, can an omnipotent being create a stone too heavy for her to lift?

On a tiny farm growing corn is a lot like that. It’s a paradox. People love corn. They crave it. And few things drive more foot traffic. We don’t have it and, as a result, half the people walk right past our stand. On the other hand, it takes a lot of land to grow and it has almost no economic value. In my day job I work at a large natural foods grocery. Right now we are selling corn 4 for $1. At the farmers’ market, the guys across the isle from us have gone as low as 50 ears for $5. We could conceivably plant our entire 1/8th acre farm to corn (we’d yield about 2,000 ears), wait an entire season, harvest it all at once, sell out in a day and generate less than $500. Corn is brutal! We gotta have it to drive traffic but if we do it’ll break us. Pure Paradox. This paradox is even harsher for organic corn. That’s why it’s so hard to find. What’s the best way to become a million dollar organic corn grower? Start with $10-million and a dream.

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Chard and Summer White Bean Ragout

Chard_Rhubarb

I hate to admit it but we’re the Kelsey Grammer of market gardens. Which is to say, we’re typecast. Like Kelsey playing the same character across three different sitcoms, we’re at our best when growing greens. Sure people come to us for a lot of things like carrots, beets, broccoli and such, but our regulars, the folks who come every week and who’ve been with us for months now, all come for our greens.. We’ve been strong with greens from the very start, opening our first market, way back in April, with three kales, two types of spinach, mizuna, tatsoi and lettuce. Latter we were one of very few growers with Broccoli Rabe (rapin), which sold great. Over the summer, we’ve kept up with our three kales and might be the only one still bringing spinach. We’ve had to step down to a single spinach variety but we’re still there and it sells out every week. Recently, with summer blazing, we’ve added chard to the lineup. We’ve had it at market for the last five weeks or so and as we’ve come to expect from our wonderfully greens-centric customers, it’s sold great.

Chard_Stems

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Our New Tomato System and Linguine with Roast Heirloom Tomatoes

Tomato_Pasta

What a difference a year makes. Twelve months ago we were struggling through the most horrible tomato season imaginable. (It’s here: My first ever post!) This year it’s a whole new story. Now we’re swimming in tomatoes, like Scrooge McDuck backstroking through his big vault of money. I can’t believe how well they’re coming and how good they taste. What’s more, we’re selling out every week at market. It’s great.

I’d like to take all the credit for our turnaround. And I’d like to blame all of last year’s crappiness  on environmental conditions. It’s been a long season. I deserve the props and could use the validation. So I’m tempted. But that wouldn’t be true. We made plenty of mistakes last year. We deserve as much blame as does the weather. And this year the conditions have been much better, granting us a natural advantage. That being said, this year we’ve done a lot to influence the outcome and improve our results.

Tomato_Heirloom

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Kale Chips

Kale_II

If I’d posted about kale chips two years ago I’d have been very cool; a tattooed, Chuck Taylor wearing, longboarding to the vegan deli, kind of cool. A year ago, I’d still have been sort of cool, like seeing Dennis Kucinich on a city bus. Now? Now I’m just a sad forty-year-old, bald, pot-bellied doffer, hanging around the pedestrian mall in Bermudas. Trying to look young. Trying to look fresh. It’s painful just thinking about it.

That being said, almost everyone I know is making kale chips these days and it sounds like they’re all using a different recipe. They share their recipes with me at market. Some call for vinegar. Others have garlic. Some are made in a dehydrator instead of an oven. One lady I met sundrys hers. They’re all different and they all sound great. So many people experimenting with so food is very cool. On the other side, my day job is at a large natural foods store. We just added our third retail brand of kale chips. Each brand has a half-dozen or so flavors. There are almost 20 options in kale chips on our shelves. 20 choices at the grocery? There’s nothing cool about that.

Kale_Chips_Two

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