It’s that time of year when Ohio farmers are up to their ears in corn. Classified both as a vegetable and cereal grain, sweet corn grows plentiful in the Midwest. In fact, 83 percent of the U.S.’s corn production came from just 10 states located in the Midwest in 2018. Ohio ranked 8th on the list of top corn producers in 2018 behind Iowa (nearly 18 percent of the U.S. crop), Illinois, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Indiana, South Dakota and Kansas. Rounding out the top ten are Michigan and North Dakota.

While billions of bushels of corn are produced each year, most of the crop is used for animal feed and fuel production. When it comes to human consumption, corn is one of the world’s most popular cereal grains. The most popular kinds of corn we eat are sweet corn (think juicy corn on the cob) and popcorn. Popcorn is a special variety of corn in which the kernels pop when exposed to heat. It’s one of the most common whole grain foods eaten in the United States. However, popcorn is only a truly healthy snack option when it’s not covered in oils, salt and other additives. A healthier alternative is to air pop your kernels at home.

Popcorn is rich in minerals (manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc and copper) while sweet corn is higher in vitamins like B5, folate, B6, niacin and potassium. Compared to many other cereal grains, corn has higher levels of antioxidants such as eye-healthy carotenoids.

Sweet corn on the cob is best eaten as fresh as possible. When selecting the perfect ear of corn, it’s important to examine the husk. Look for brown spots or other signs of pests. Husks should be bright green and be wrapped tightly around the corn. Feel the husk to ensure that kernels are plump. The tassels at the top of the ear (where the corn silk sticks out from the husk) should be golden/light brown and sticky to the touch. Older corn will have dry, black tassels. If you don’t plan on eating the corn the day you bring it home, it can be stored in the crisper of the refrigerator with the husks on, tightly wrapped in a plastic bag.

Grilled spicy corn

Ingredients:

  • 4 large ears sweet corn, husks removed
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce
  • 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon granules
  • 1/4 cup chopped seeded jalapeno peppers

Directions:

Place each ear of corn on a double thickness of heavy-duty foil (about 18 x 12 in.). Combine butter, thyme, hot pepper sauce and bouillon granules. Brush over corn; sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon jalapenos. Seal tightly.

Grill, covered, over medium heat until corn is tender, about 15-20 minutes. Open carefully to allow steam to escape.

The Athens Farmers Market Café is a collaboration between the Athens Farmers Market, OU COMCorps (a local Americorps program), and Athens County Children Services. Athens Farmers Market hours are Wednesdays (April-December) and Saturdays (year-round) from 9 a.m. to noon at The Market on State parking lot, 1000 E. State St., Athens. To help increase fresh food consumption, the Athens Farmers Market vendors proudly participate in the following social service programs: the USDA Food Assistance Program, SNAP/EBT (food stamps), WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program. Participants can stop by the table at the southeast corner of the market to get SNAP tokens to spend at the market.

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