Welcome to the Land of Corn and ... CORN!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Golden Bantam Corn
There goes my attempt at a snappy title. Sigh

As the photo to your immediate right clearly shows -- it is "corn season" in the Backyard of Bird." The harvest is back -- and back in a big way this summer after an absolutely horrible showing last year -- a fact that I blamed on 49ers Quarterback Alex Smith.

Don't get me wrong here. Alex Smith is still an unbelievable FLOP in the NFL -- and for some strange reason he's back for yet another MISERABLE season in the City by the Bay. As KFI Radio -- and former NewsTalk 1530 KFBK personality extraordinaire -- Shannon Farren correctly posted on Facebook recently: "7 years of Alex Smith. Who broke that damn mirror?"

Shannon was never one to hide her feelings -- nor the occasional F-Bomb dropped in a newsroom setting.

OK -- so it wasn't occasional. Shannon's language in a radio newsroom could and did make more than one sailor blush. But that's another story for another day.

Test Bed: Bird Back 40
Point is -- Alex Smith is still stinking it up in the City by the Bay -- but fortunately that bad voodoo hasn't affected the Bird corn offerings this year. The test bed is churning out record amounts of beautiful corn on the cob in 2011 -- and we're just getting started. The production has been limited to the first two rows that the wife that is Venus and I planted earlier this spring.

Still to come? About five more rows. Provided the weather holds -- we'll be harvesting giant ears of corn through September.

Final Golden Bantam Harvest: 13 ears
My friends, there is nothing quite like hoofing it out to the corn patch on a weekend evening and pulling a fat fresh ear of corn or four off the backyard stalks. Venus and I started harvesting shortly after returning from Santa Cruz two weeks ago -- and fresh corn on the cob has been a staple on the evening menu ever since. Tonight's final harvest resulted in a Baker's Dozen -- 13 ears -- which is now sitting in a freezer.

Thanks to a couple of recipe suggestions and canning recipes delivered by Farmer Fred Hoffman -- we will be enjoying fresh-from-the-backyard corn all winter long.

Emerging Ears of Lip-Smacking Golden Bantam Corn
The variety in question is an heirloom variety. First offered through Burpee gardening catalogs in 1902, the variety called Golden Bantam is still going strong. It's not hard to figure out why gardeners are somewhat partial to this variety. Stalks of Golden Bantam corn deliver ears that are more than a foot long. It's not the sweetest corn you'll taste in your lifetime -- but it is special nonetheless.

I was somewhat shocked to discover that this yellow corn variety also resulted in kernels that were colored a bright orange. At first? I thought this might have been the result of leaving the corn on the stalk for a might too long. But those fears were unfounded. Venus and I were happy to discover that each orange-colored kernel was packed with a jolt of natural sugar.

Bright Yellow and Orange Kernels on Golden Bantam
Unfortunately -- the Golden Bantam seed that I ordered three years ago from Pinetree Garden Seeds didn't last beyond the first two rows. That forced us to turn to another variety of yellow corn seed that we purchased last year from Lockhart Seed Company in Stockton.

The Lockhart Seed wasn't an heirloom variety. Lockhart Seed doesn't necessarily specialize in heirloom varieties, which isn't bad. What Lockhart Seed does specialize in is varieties that are specifically adapted to our San Joaquin and Sacramento Valley climates. Although it's entirely probably that some cross-pollination has taken place with the later varieties -- my hope (prayer would probably be a better word) is that since both are yellow varieties, we should be OK.

That's my hope anyway. I've seen cross-pollination before between yellow, white and baby corn varieties that have been planted far to close together. The results are indeed Frankensteinish. And the taste wasn't all that good either.

The variety in question -- Bodacious -- was planted about a month after the Golden Bantam -- and the stalks are now about four feet in height. The first green tassels from the developing ears have already emerged and my best guess is that we're still another three weeks away from a first harvest -- provided the weather holds. We have been lucky in that respect. After a colder than normal spring, the last two months have been outstanding.

And so my friends -- I come to you with this advice. If you live in the Sacramento Valley and have a small plot of room -- you can plant corn and you can harvest delicious ears later in the summer.

This is despite the presence of a quarterback named Alex Smith who appears have locked up yet another year of starting play for your San Francisco 49ers.

Keep the bar well stocked. It's going to be yet another long winter.