The joys of Iowa sweet corn


So there I was, sitting in my favorite camp dining hall in New Hampshire, with about 30 other central staff as we waited for our mid-summer banquet. The summer session was half over, campers and staff were gone for now, and the rest of us were just relaxing, kicking back before we were soon enough to be inundated with 150 boys for the next month.

Fitting of a celebration in New England, our meal centered on fresh Maine lobster and steak. Yet much of the staff was also pretty excited about the fresh sweet corn on the cob that was scheduled to be served along with the lobster. Since I was far away from Iowa, I was looking forward to having some sweet corn, too. By that time it had been several summers since I had been home for sweet corn season, and I missed it.

Finally we were ready to eat. Along with the lobsters and steak, the cooked corn came to the tables on big platters. It looked tasty–yellow and steamy–and we dug in.

That’s when I found out there’s a difference in Iowa sweet corn. A big difference. This corn here just wasn’t what I remembered at all. Oh, it was good, but New Hampshire sweet corn just wasn’t the same. After a few bites, I looked up at the waterfront director, sitting across from me. She’s from Indiana. In unison, I remember we said to each other, “You call this sweet corn?”

Even though it’s been more than thirty years now since that meal, I still find myself thinking about that some days. Especially now that I get to live where real sweet corn grows. And it still tastes every bit as wonderful as it always has.

Whether we grow our own sweet corn or buy it from a roadside stand or perhaps someone shares it with us, whether you prefer the yellow variety or sugar and cream, we are fortunate to live where it’s fresh and wonderful.

I remember an acquaintance who grew up in Hamilton county who had a career in the heart of Chicago. As an adult he told me how much he missed fresh sweet corn during the summer, even though he generally loved living in the city. “I never thought much about how good our sweet corn was when I was growing up,” he mused. “My Dad would pick what we needed for a meal, we’d shuck it, and my mom would cook it right then. I’m sure it didn’t take more than a half-hour from the time the corn left the field till we were eating it. It was so fresh and so good!”

Oh, sure, my siblings and I hated shucking half a pickup load of corn when it was at the perfect stage for freezing every summer. My kids were the same way. It didn’t make any difference, though, because everyone helped get the corn ready to put it up for the winter. And we all appreciated it during the cold winter, when it was still tasty.

Some things just never change. Like the goodness that is Iowa sweet corn in August.