As I was driving across the countryside of Iowa this afternoon, I realized that these summer days are growing even more precious. The sun was shining bright, and the cornfields were lush with tall green stalks of ripening corn. Wildflowers were in full bloom all along the highways. Even though the air was hot and heavy with humidity, it was a beautiful day to be out and about.
I was home for my favorite summer reason—the sweet corn was ready! In my family, we gather at my uncle’s farm to gather up our stash of sweet corn for the coming year. We first go into the field, the stalks high above our heads, looking for ears that are just the right size for picking. If they are too fat, they might be past their prime. Too skinny, and they might not be quite ready yet. When our buckets are full, we dump them out in the truck and continue picking until we have a full load. Then it’s time to shuck the whole pile. Pulling the husk off the ears is a tough job–but once you pull it down enough to reveal the plump yellow and white kernels, you know it’s worth it. As some of us continue husking, others go inside to start washing the ears and remove as much silk as possible. Before we know it, the pots are boiling on the stove and we are ready to boil, blanch, and cut the kernels from the ears. As the day wears on, we laugh together, tell stories, take a quick lunch break, and keep the corn moving. Stolen nibbles of corn cut fresh from the cob keep everyone smiling and give a taste of the treat to come. The final step is to fill freezer bags with heaping cups of fresh cut sweet corn and pile them into the freezer. We lose count of the number of ears picked…three hundred, four hundred, five hundred. The bags pile high on the counter until they can be packed into coolers to take home. The freezer bags will be divided between all of us and sent home with kids and grandkids to fill their freezers. All winter long, we will open these bags of sweet summer corn and be brought back to the memories of this day working together. The last bag to be loaded into the car is a bag of more ears, fresh from the field, to be cooked and eaten–salted and dripping with butter, on the cob with supper that night.
It’s the best part of summer.