From July to early October is the season for fresh corn – deliciously sweet, golden like the sun and bursting with flavour. Delivered in their leafy protective husks that keep the kernels tender, it is natural packaging at its best.
Guy Singh-Watson, farmer and founder of Riverford organic farmers, says: “Every gardener loves growing sweetcorn; it is one of the few crops you don’t have to bend down to pick and in a hot summer it’s easy to grow. Our favourite cooking method, used at all summer staff parties, is to soak the cobs in water then cook them patiently on a barbecue so they steam inside their husk. When they start to catch they are normally just about done. The husks can be peeled back, making a good handle for eating the cob smothered in butter and/or chilli sauce.”
To try this yourself, soak the whole sweetcorn cobs in a large bowl or bucket of cold water for 20 minutes; this prevents them from burning. Carefully peel back the husks but leave them attached at the stem end. Remove all the straggly silks. If you like, rub the cob with butter or oil and flavourings such as chopped chilli and herbs, then re-cover with the husk.
Secure the top with string or a piece of foil if it looks likely to unwrap. Grill over hot coals, turning frequently, until the cob is blackened all over, about 15 minutes. Alternatively, simply place the cobs on the grill as they are and let diners peel away the silks with the husks.
When your sweetcorn is super-fresh, boiling or steaming are simple and satisfying ways to eat it. Invest just five minutes, a pan of boiling water and a generous smear of butter for one of the great finger-licking joys of the summer. But there are plenty of ways to cook sweetcorn, and it pairs well with zesty citrus, aromatic herbs or fiery chilli, garlic and spring onions.
You will find all those flavours working wonderfully in more-ish quesadillas – a great, family-friendly Mexican dish in between a stuffed pancake and a toasted sandwich. This easy and almost instant meal goes down well with nearly everyone, especially at parties.
Another simple recipe, barbecued sweetcorn with burnt lime and sea salt is a dish made in north India on roadside charcoal burners with a warm citrus zing. Burnt lime becomes lightly caramelised, and the mix of smoky, sweet and sour makes an interesting flavour contrast.
Thai sweetcorn fritters made with vibrant fresh coriander are quick to prepare and cook – top with rocket, avocado and bacon for a fabulous brunch or they also make a great lunchbox filler for meals on the move.
Chowders are traditional stews originally made by coastal communities, containing seasonal vegetables with a portion of the local catch. A classic use for sweetcorn, a rich crab chowder is full of comfort but light enough for a summer main meal.
The delicate sweetness of crab and corn work wonderfully together, but if you are vegetarian this quick to make smoky sweetcorn and sweet potato chowder is packed full of interest too.