How sweet it is
URBANA — Whether you like it boiled, grilled or ripped right from the stalk and eaten fresh, now is the time to start loading up on local sweet corn from area roadside stands and farmers markets.
On Tuesdays and Fridays, the folks at Griest's stand off High Cross Road in Urbana pick the ears around 5:30 a.m. and start selling them around 3 p.m. until they're out.
"You cannot get fresher corn than that," said Ray Griest, who has been planting an acre of sweet corn in a plot just north of Interstate 74 at Anthony Drive and High Cross Road for about seven years now. The family started the little side business so their children could earn some extra spending money, he said.
"It's extremely good corn," Griest said about the bicolor Sh2 supersweet variety he planted.
Griest staggers his plantings throughout the season and got the first round done on April 5. Normally he irrigates the acre, but because of all the rain this spring and summer he hasn't once had to do so.
Unlike feed and seed corn, which is harvested by combines, this local sweet corn is picked by hand, early in the morning. When the silks turn brown, the pickers head out to the field.
This week's cool nights pose no danger to the corn, Griest said. The below-average temperatures will simply slow down how fast the corn matures, he said.
At Sola Gratia farm in Urbana, a community-supported agriculture program at St. Matthew Lutheran Church, the sweet corn is about 15 days out from being ready for picking, said farm manager Clay Yapp. They also planted bicolor corn, the varieties "Delectable" and "Sugar Buns."
"Delectable is the tastiest corn," said Yapp, who prefers to eat corn raw. "It's juicy and it's lovely."
A lot of Sola Gratia's corn will go to those who have shares in the CSA, but any extras will be sold at a stand just off Philo Road from 3 to 6 p.m. Thursdays.
"We're about two weeks behind schedule in everything. Everything was pushed back because of the cold spring. It took a long time for the soil temperatures to warm up," Yapp said.
All the recent rain did create standing water in some areas of Sola Gratia's farm, raising some concerns about root rot. Luckily, no corn was planted in those areas, Yapp said.
"It's looking pretty good," said Effingham County farmer Mark Schottman, who first started picking sweet corn on July 4. "We didn't get as much rain as you have" in Champaign-Urbana, he said, and so Schottman does not have concerns about standing water damaging crops.
This past Saturday was his first time selling sweet corn at Urbana's Market at the Square. It was a rainout, but there will be many more Saturdays to come.
Schottman planted the last of his sweet corn a week ago, and due to the timing of his staggered plantings, he expects to harvest sweet corn through October.