Late Summer Produce to Fall For!

Sweet corn is truly a gift from nature, wrapped in beautiful, papery green leaves that reveal pearly rows of sweet, crunchy goodness tied up with silky ribbons.

Late summer into early fall is the peak season for sweet corn. Luckily, it is grown in all 50 states, so you will easily find piles of ripe ears at your local grocer or roadside stand. There may not be as many corn festivals as in years past, but some markets and small farms are offering outdoor events where you can maintain social distancing while munching on a freshly roasted ear of corn dripping with butter. And be sure to take home a bag – or two- to enjoy later.

Here are some tips for selecting and storing your bounty:

  1. Do NOT shuck the corn until you are ready to cook it. See those bins of fresh corn husks in the grocery stores and farmers markets? Skip them unless you’re planning to prepare the corn within the next few hours.
  2. DO take a peek! Peel back a small part of the husk to reveal the kernels. You are looking for plump, firm, shiny kernels all the way to the tip of the ear. Dried out, under-developed, or dull looking kernels are signs of ears that were picked too early and have been stored for too long.
  3. Which is sweeter…white, yellow, or bicolor? Trick question! Color does not determine sweetness; it is the variety of the corn that determines the amount of sugar and therefore the sweetness of the corn. Most corn sold in the US is the super-sweet variety.
  4. Do NOT throw away the husks, silks, and cobs! You can make tea from the corn silk, use the husks as wrappers for tamales or grilling fish, and boil the cobs in a big pot of water until you have a yummy vegetable stock.
  5. Freeze corn if you do not use it within 3 days of purchase. Here’s how: Shuck the corn (gently…see Tip #4), boil for 2 ½ minutes, then plunge into an ice bath. Cut kernels off cobs and freeze in plastic zip-close bags for up to one year. Remember to label the bags!

Blueberries are another star of late summer produce. These juicy orbs continue to delight until the end of October. Here are some tips for choosing and storing blueberries:

  1. Choose dark bluish-purple berries without stems or leaves. Look for plump berries and avoid red berries – they are unripe and will not ripen once picked.
  2. Sort through the fruits as soon as possible, tossing any soft or overripe berries. Don’t skip this step…one rotten berry can spoil the entire basket!
  3. Wait to rinse until ready to eat. Dry berries last longer.
  4. Store unrefrigerated for one day at most.
  5. Once you rinse the berries, keep them as dry as possible and allow for air circulation. Moisture contributes to bacteria formation.
  6. Freeze after about a week by lining completely dry berries on a cookie sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for 24 hours. Then transfer to freezer bags. They will keep for 6-8 months.
  7. Thaw frozen berries in the refrigerator or in a cold-water bath.

Now that you have a house full of corn and blueberries, whatever will you do with them? Corn is easy to grill, makes a lovely chowder, and will perk up homemade salsa. Blueberries bring to mind muffins, scones, and pies. Or a fruity sauce for roast pork loin.

The My Cooking Magazine staff likes to bring you the best of both worlds while thinking outside the box. Have you ever slathered homemade blueberry jam on a freshly baked corn muffin? Well, here is a twist on that combo, using fresh corn kernels as a topping for blueberry crisp. Combine the tang of the berries with sweet crunch of corn for a unique and memorable dessert.

Corn and Blueberry Crisp

Filling:

5 cups fresh blueberries

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 t lemon zest

3 T fresh lemon juice

1 T cornstarch

¼ t sea salt

Topping:

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

2/3 cup dry corn muffin mix

10 T very cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1 cup fresh corn kernels, about 1 large ear

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine blueberries, sugar, lemon zest, cornstarch, and sea salt in a large bowl; mix gently. Pour into a shallow 2-quart baking dish. Whisk flour and corn muffin mix in a medium mixing bowl. Using a pastry blender combine butter with dry ingredients until you have a crumbly mixture. Stir in corn kernels and sprinkle evenly over blueberry filling. Bake 50-60 minutes until topping is golden brown and filling is bubbly. Let cool for 20 minutes before serving.

Lori Rodgers – Lori’s passion for food and fine dining began at an early age. She started reading Gourmet at 8, and was fortunate to have a father who included her in his travels to cites across the US, often frequenting restaurants she had read about in the magazine. After studying hotel and restaurant management at FSU for two years and thoroughly enjoying the summer program in Switzerland, she graduated with a degree in International Business with a minor in Spanish. Lori owned and operated the family business, Bert Rodgers Schools of Real Estate for 25 years, indulging her cooking hobby by whipping up meals for family and friends on the weekends. She has two teenagers who have adopted a vegan lifestyle, adding a new challenge to Lori’s cooking repertoire. Lori recently sold the business and is embarking on a new chapter and new career, returning to her true calling, cooking and exploring the multifaceted world of food!

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