Farmer’s Market Sweet Corn’s Here: Who Reigns Supreme?

Jimmy-thumbSweet corn season is just getting underway, and there is no better way to take advantage of it than a trip to the City’s awesome farmers market.

Last Saturday I scurried around to every corn-toting vendor I could find so that I could gather up samples for a taste test.  I ended up with gorgeous ears from eight different stands:

Threeway Farm
Lois’s Produce
Penn Farms
Westmoreland Farm
Laurel Grove Farms
Thank God It’s Fresh (aka TGIF)
Toigo Orchards
Musachio Produce Farm

Sweet_corn_vertical smallerI got some pretty weird looks as I rushed back to my car with the ears of corn kept separate between my fingers and in several plastic bags on my arms so that I knew which one was from which farm.

When I got to the car I quickly lined them up and wrote down the name of the farm and a number corresponding to the order that I arranged the corn.  A perfect system!  I was able to keep track of the number of each corn after shucking and cooking them all, but by that time I had also forgotten which farm was which number on my notepad, making for a blind taste test.

Unfortunately, two of the ears were so unmistakably from two particular farms, so I knew what those were during the testing.  The first corn that I knew the identity of was from Toigo Orchards, because they sell the Mirai variety that has a distinct kernel and was the only yellow one of the bunch.  The second corn that I knew the origin of was from Musachio Produce Farm, and that’s because Musachio’s corn was cold to the touch and the only one that was noticeably wet and sticky.  This is due to the fact that owner Mike Musachio chills his corn on ice the night before to keep the sugars from turning to starches.

Other than that, it was a completely blind taste test for me.

Eager to have at least a few totally oblivious tasters, I decided to include my mom, sister, brother, and cousin in the tasting.  That way we could arrive at a truly unbiased verdict for the best sweet corn available in Falls Church.

When I told them they would be participating in a corn-tasting test (yes, I told them, they didn’t really have a choice), there were some moans and groans, but once the aroma of corn hit the air, everyone was all smiles.  Honestly, who doesn’t love sweet corn?

Here are some of the precautions we took to make sure the testing went as fair as possible:

Scarano family does the taste test

Scarano family does the taste test

1. All the corn was cooked in the same manner- lightly steamed in less than an inch of water for just a few minutes, until it was just cooked through.

2.  While we tasted, no one was allowed to say anything positive or negative about a particular ear of corn because we didn’t want anyone being influenced by other people’s reactions.

3. Everyone wrote down their comments about each corn according to its number so that no one could go back and change their mind based on what other people said.  There was written proof of everyone’s true feelings about the corn.

Aside from those parameters, the taste test was pretty much just me and my family sitting around and gorging on corn.

When the test was complete and all the corn was sufficiently destroyed, I proclaimed that I had three clear favorites: #1, #7, and #8.  To my shock, everyone else agreed convincingly.  Though all the corn was pretty tasty, these three trumped the competition in flavor, texture, and aroma.

I quickly retrieved my notepad to reveal which farms had won the contest.  But there really wasn’t much drama for me personally.  Two of the winners were the two ears of corn that I already knew the identity of- Toigo Orchards (Corn #7) and Musachio Produce Farm (Corn #8).  But let me assure you there was no foul play involved.  Remember, my family whole heartedly agreed that these were two of the best ears on the table and they had no idea where they were from.

Corn #1, it turned out, was from Threeway Farm.

The best part about the taste test was reading some of the descriptions of the corn on everyone’s little comment card.  Tasters noted “earthy and sour notes” in some ears as well as “corny” flavor in others.  Texture seemed to be almost as important as flavor.  Some praised “crisp, juicy” kernels while others enjoyed “mealy, soft” ones. I didn’t know my family members had such refined palettes.

The three winners separated themselves from the pack by hitting a good combo of sweetness, texture and corniness.  Threeway Farm’s corn was sweet and delicate, with a light corn flavor that everyone liked.  Toigo Orchards’ was by far the sweetest of the bunch, but so sweet that some of the corn flavor was lost.  But it was also pleasantly crisp and if you like really, really sweet stuff (and many people do) then you’ll love it.

Musachio’s pearly white corn was utterly delicious- not too sugary, corny, buttery, and bursting with juicy corn milk.  It was probably my overall favorite.  And I have little doubt that part of the reason it’s so good is that Musachio takes that extra step to ice it down.

Sweet Corn_Front pageBut what do I know?  Go to the market and perform your own taste test with your family. Corn is one of the few really cheap items available- with ears ranging from 50-75 cents each- so you can stock up and enjoy.

Call me corny, but I can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

July 17, 2009 


2 Responses to “Farmer’s Market Sweet Corn’s Here: Who Reigns Supreme?”

  1. vlfrance on July 17th, 2009 12:35 pm

    I love this story! Guess I’d better get to the market early tomorrow to bring home some “winners”! What taste testing will be next?

  2. Jimmy Scarano on July 17th, 2009 2:44 pm

    Glad you liked the story. Corn is delicious! I’m not sure how likely other tastings will be. Corn made the most sense because it was economically doable. To test tomatoes, peaches, plums, etc. from EVERY vendor would be very, very expensive. I’ll see what I can do.

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