Corn: Knee High by the 4th of July!

Corn: Knee High by the 4th of July!

When asked to think of summertime veggies, most may think of plump, ripe, red tomatoes, but I, on the other hand, think of corn. I remember driving with my grandma as a child and stopping along a long, windy backroad in western Maryland to nibble on corn straight off the stalk.

As I got older and learned to cook, fresh corn from my mom’s garden became my favorite ingredient to use. I love it in the kitchen because you can serve it fresh or cooked, and it’s great for grilling. Anyway you slice it, corn is a great crop to grow in your backyard!

Corn (Z. mays), also known as Maize, is a unique crop originating from Mesoamerica where it was so prized it had its own deity among the Aztecs — Centeotl. In North America, the Native Americans used corn as one of the Three Sisters — a planting method that incorporates tall, hungry Corn; climbing, nutrient-providing, Beans; and short, sprawling Squash — which is still used by organic gardeners and permaculturalists today! Unlike other vegetables from the garden, corn can be used to make a variety of things from biofuels to animal fodder. Due to its ability to be transformed, corn has become a highly controversial crop regarding Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and industrial agriculture. Don’t worry, SmartGardener.com offers numerous varieties of Heirloom and Organic corn varieties that are GMO-free.

Hopefully your corn has already been planted! A sure way to know you’ll have a great crop this year: Knee high by the Fourth of July!

Corn Chowder
Serves 4

2 ears of corn — kernals removed (2 cups), cobs cut in half and reserved
1 cup yellow onion, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup carrots, chopped
2 tbsp butter
4 cup milk
1 bay leaf, dried
1 cup red potatoes, diced
1/4 cup red pepper, diced
1/2 tsp thyme, dried
salt and pepper to taste

Melt 2 tbsp of butter over medium-high heat in a large saucepan. Add onions and let cook about 5 minutes until translucent. Add carrots and celery and sauté for about 5 more minutes.

Stir milk into the mixture, and add cobs, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a bare simmer–on the lowest possible temperature while still simmering. Allow to simmer for 30 minutes, checking on it regularly.

Discard cobs and bay and slightly raise the heat. Add potatoes, red peppers, 1/2 tsp of salt, and pepper to taste. Cook for 10 – 15 minutes, until potatoes are tender.

Raise heat a little more and add corn and dried thyme and cook for 5 more minutes. Serve immediately.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

With its rich orange color and hearty texture, butternut squash soup is my idea of the quintessential autumn meal served alone or with a gooey grilled cheese sandwich. It can be made simply with squash and broth, but throw in other seasonal produce and you’ll have a true harvest treat.

If you pick the squash when it is fully mature (its hard skin cannot be pricked by your fingernail and its surface has lost its sheen and appears dull and dry), you can store it for up to 3 months at 50º with a 50% to 75% humidity. You can also cube and freeze raw squash or cook it first and freeze the puree.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
(Serves 8)

1 4-pound butternut squash
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 sweet yellow onion, chopped
3 medium sized leeks, cleaned, sliced
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled and cubed
10 sage leaves
8 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
Sea salt to taste
Pepper to taste
4 Shallots

1. Preheat oven to 425ºF.

2. Slice the squash lengthwise and remove the seeds. Place on a roasting pan, skin side down and spray or drizzle each half with olive oil. Sprinkle with allspice and roast for 1-1-1/2 hours until the squash is soft when poked with a fork.

3. While the squash is roasting, chop the onions, leeks, apples and sage leaves. Coat the bottom of a stock pot with olive oil and sauté the onions for 2 to 3 minutes on medium heat. Add the leeks and sauté for another 2 minutes. Add the apples and sage, cover the pot, reduce the heat and let the ingredients simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. When the onions are soft and translucent, add the chicken broth to the pot and bring the mixture to a boil. Continue to boil on medium heat for 20 minutes. Take off the heat and let sit until squash is ready.

5. When the squash is cool, scoop the flesh from the skins and add it to the stockpot. Puree all the ingredients with a hand blender—or in batches in a regular blender. Season to taste with salt and pepper and reheat.

6. Peel and slice the shallots and sauté them in olive oil until nicely brown. Garnish the soup with a sprinkle of crispy shallots and serve.