By Dale F. Matthews
Someone at Hermsdorf Farms knows a thing or two. Hermsdorf Farms has the catchiest slogan I’ve encountered for a sweet corn vendor: “We make butter taste better.”
They sure do. Sweet corn thrives in the hot and wet conditions we’ve had this summer, and it has finally arrived at area farmers markets. Hermsdorf Farms is a popular vendor at several local farmers markets, including the Northside Farmers Market.
I like the idea of city people meeting growers and talking to people about corn education. Here’s what I’ve learned: most people overcook corn. When you buy it fresh, it doesn’t need much. My fail-proof method preserves the corn’s snappy texture and sweet, milky flavor and it couldn’t be easier. Strip off the husks and silk, place the ears in a pot, cover with water and cook over high heat. When the water reaches a boil, remove the pot from the heat, drain and serve immediately. Just add butter.
But selling local fresh corn is pointless if flavor can’t be guaranteed. That’s where the secret weapon comes into play — the one that makes farmers markets across the city stock Hermsdorf Farms corn. In the short period of time between being pulled off the stalk and being placed in a customer’s hand, Hermsdorf Farms sweet corn goes through a chilling process. Dean Hermsdorf is the only farmer in the Madison area who quickly cools his sweet corn. Within an hour of picking, his corn is hand sorted, placed into aeriated bags to bring the core temperature down and stored in a cooler maintained at 38 degrees. Keeping corn cool until the customer buys it is the Hermsdorf fresh way.
Sweet corn’s iconic flavors can be compromised when corn is picked and left alone because the sugar breaks down into starch in a matter of hours. “When it’s quickly cooled, its life expectancy has increased from six to eight hours to quite a few days,” Hermsdorf said. He does his part to preserve flavor, but customers must do their part as well. Customers should refrigerate their sweet corn as soon as possible after buying it.
Check out local, fresh sweet corn from Hermsdorf Farms at the Northside Farmers Market. Hermsdorf also sells at the Monroe Street Farmers Market, Capitol View Farmers Market and the Breese Stevens Bodega.