Waterloo Region Record

The sweetest thing

The sugar content in corn has increased over the years

- LUISA D’AMATO ldamato@therecord.com Twitter: @DamatoReco­rd

Sugar content in corn has increased over the years

All green and gold, corn looks like summer.

All juicy and sweet, it tastes like summer, too.

In fact, if you’ve noticed that your corn on the cob is getting tastier all the time, you’re not alone.

“It didn’t used to be so sweet,” said James Herrle (pronounced HER-lee), whose family raises sweet corn and sells it at the popular Herrle’s Country Farm Market on Erb’s Road between Waterloo and St. Agatha.

There was once a time when the best way to eat corn was to pick it, shuck it, then run to your kitchen where your water was already boiling in the pot so it could be cooked and devoured right away — before the sugars in the vegetable turned to starch.

But these days, you can relax. Buy the aptly named “Super Sweet” variety on a Tuesday, throw it in the fridge and serve it on Saturday night, with no loss of flavour.

Over the years, much of the corn we eat has been bred to contain more sugar and hold onto it longer.

Some traditiona­l varieties of corn have a sugar content of nine to 16 per cent, according to Foodland Ontario. Some other varieties have been bred to contain up to 44 per cent sugar.

“In North America, we have such a sweet tooth for everything,” said Herrle.

“We even want our vegetables to be sweet!”

Herrle said new techniques have also produced larger cobs and more even rows of kernels over the years.

The Herrle family started its corn business in 1964, when Elsie Herrle and her late husband Howard (James’ parents) had a few acres of sweet corn which they sold from their garage.

The customers wanted more, so they expanded.

The market building opened in 1988 and the family grew and sold peas, beans, beets, spinach, cucumbers, zucchini and pumpkins.

The new business quickly added a bakery and, later, a pick-your-own strawberry patch. Dairy and frozen meats were brought in, as were other products, mostly locally grown and manufactur­ed.

But the corn has always been at the centre of everything.

This year, the spring was so chilly — and therefore the ground was so cold — that the crop was two weeks late. It’s usually available from midJuly until mid-October.

“The spring was horrible,” said Herrle. “Just a miserable spring.”

The late growing start meant that local corn wasn’t available until the very end of July. To bridge the gap, the family had to bring in corn to sell from a supplier in Norfolk County to the south.

Then when the weather gets hot, especially when nights are warm, the corn ripens faster than even the crowds of customers from Kitchener and Waterloo can consume it. At times like that the extra corn is donated to charities like the Food Bank, Herrle said.

The store also sells the family’s own corn in longer-lasting form, like bottled corn salsa; frozen kernels; corn chowder; and a refrigerat­ed corn dip that mixes the kernels with cheese, sour cream, chopped onion and pepper, mayonnaise and garlic. It’s recommende­d to be served warm with crackers or raw vegetables.

There are many ways to eat fresh corn. Making the rounds is a popular recipe that tells people to parboil and then grill the cobs on the barbecue, and slather them in a mixture of mayonnaise, chopped cilantro, lime juice, chili powder and crumbled or grated cheese.

But Herrle likes his corn very plain.

“Throw it in the pot and boil it,” he said.

No butter?

Not for him. The butter “masks” the taste of the corn.

Many customers love the sweet taste and tender texture of today’s corn kernels. But not everyone does.

Herrle says there are some customers who will ask for a special order. They want some of the less-sweet varieties, and they want their cobs left on the stalk a week past normal picking time.

Many of these customers have a Caribbean background, he said, and they prize the starchy, less-sweet taste and sticky texture of the corn when it’s handled this way.

Just like summer, corn doesn’t last as long as any of us might like.

Many local customers think of Herrle’s and the corn for which it is famous as part of the rhythm of their year.

When the store opens in June, the warm weather we long for has truly arrived. When the corn arrives in July, people can’t get enough of it. They feast for months.

And every year at the end of October, when the last cob was sucked dry weeks earlier and the store closes for the winter, we know that the last fragment of summer has truly disappeare­d.

In North America, we have such a sweet tooth for everything. We even want our vegetables to be sweet! JAMES HERRLE Herrle’s Country Farm Market

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 ?? PETER LEE WATERLOO REGION RECORD ?? James Herrle shows off the produce that made Herrle's Country Farm Market famous.
PETER LEE WATERLOO REGION RECORD James Herrle shows off the produce that made Herrle's Country Farm Market famous.
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