SIOUX CITY | Locally grown sweet corn has proven resilient, despite a spate of storms, heat and dry conditions.
Jim "Farmer" Brown, who grows sweet corn near Oto, Iowa, was selling corn and other vegetables at his "Farmer Brown's Garden" tent at the Sioux City Farmers Market a week ago Wednesday. It was the first day corn was sold at the market.
His corn, which he displayed packed on ice at the sweltering outdoor market, made a strong showing despite the inclement weather it grew up in. People snapped it up fast, inspecting ears and buying them by the bag, at $6 per dozen.
"Earlier, we were extremely dry, and it (sweet corn) was hurting, you know it was wanting moisture," Brown said. "We've gotten some moisture, the crop actually looks quite good, it really does."
Tammy Donovan was busy selling corn at a roadside stand along Hamilton Boulevard. Donovan, a Sergeant Bluff grower who has been selling for 32 years, was forced to water her crop this year due to the sustained dry weather.
The quality of her product didn't suffer much, if at all, she said.
"It's actually pretty good for as dry as it was," Donovan said. "But we've had to pump a lot of water on it."
But the growing season is far from over, and growers are on constant guard from wild animals that like to eat -- or otherwise wreak havoc on -- sweet corn fields.
"Raccoons and dear are a huge issue, the deer population is just huge," Donovan said.
Though there were quite a few sweet corn shoppers at the farmers market in downtown Sioux City last week, demand hasn't reached its peak yet.
"It probably peaks about three weeks into the sweet corn season," Brown said. "People do not get tired of eating sweet corn, they just don't get tired of eating sweet corn -- if it's good."
And not all sweet corn, Brown cautioned, is created equal. Many factors impact corn quality, and it can vary from day to day, and from vendor to vendor.
But Brown has a technique he recommends for corn shoppers.
"This is what I tell my city cousins: shop around a little bit, find a vendor at the farmers market who, you're comfortable with his quality level and his price level, and then shop early at that market," Brown said. "The reason for that is because, chances are other people are going to have the same opinion that you have, and they're going to shop early, and that particular vendor will sell out of half of his items by 12 o'clock."
Corn consumers seeking the convenience and uniform quality of grocery store sweet corn should be wary, Brown said.
Most shoppers at Brown's stand on July 12 said it was their first time buying corn this season.
Two customers of Brown's, Kris Shults and Mike VanWaart, both of Sioux City, said instead of the more-traditional boiling or grilling of sweet corn, they microwave it.
Their corn microwaving techniques have their differences. Shults microwaves the ears in the leaves, while VanWaart wraps them in plastic.
Both said it's a good way to warm up an ear or two.
"Put it in the microwave, wrap it with saran wrap, four minutes an ear -- delicious," VanWaart said.