Even though the Midwest is tops in field corn production and grows row after row of it, these states don’t stand out when it comes to national production of sweet corn.
But for many in the region, nothing says summer quite like a fresh hot ear of sweet corn — plain, buttered or salted.
On the final Friday of the 2019 Iowa State Fair, more than 1,200 ears of donated sweet corn were boiled and handed out for free to anyone who waited in line. Volunteer Mary Smith had the job of squirting margarine on the corn, though she said with a chuckle that she's in the minority: she doesn't like any butter on her corn.
Deal's Orchard displays the variety of sweet corn it's selling at the Ames Farmers Market. Christy Deal completes an order for a customer. Her husband, Benji Deal, says Kristine has been a consistently sweet and tender variety. Most of his customers don't pay attention to the name, though. They're more likely to have a color request, such as all yellow.
Yellow, bi-color and white varieties wait to be purchased at the Olson Family Farm booth at the Ames Farmers Market. Ray Olson says he plants six varieties every year that he selects for taste, length of time needed to reach maturity and ability to stay fresh from harvest until sale. His most popular seller is the bi-color.
Glenda Stormes-Bice of Ames, Iowa, picks through corn to select the smallest ears, which she says taste a little sweeter and don’t get stuck in her teeth as much. She keeps a stick of (vegan) butter in her freezer all summer so she can easily slather it on each ear of hot corn she pulls from her microwave.
Yours truly stood in line for an ear of bi-color corn on the cob at the Iowa State Fair. Farmer Ron Deardorff of Adel, Iowa, who grew and donated the corn, wouldn’t say what variety it is; he says that’s proprietary information. Fairgoers snatched up the free corn in less than 90 minutes.