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sweet corn with chili lime dressing

My glut crop this week is sweet corn – the last round of sweet corn for the year.  Sweet corn is one of the trickier crops for a home gardener.  What goes wrong?

It can fail to pollinate if there are too few plants in a block – the pollen from the flowers on one plant must fall onto the silks on a corn cob on a neighbouring plant for it to set seed.  Otherwise you get odd looking cobs with only a few kernels.  Warm dry weather at pollination time, and enough plants all bunched together to get a nice mist of pollen in the air is ideal.  But to have a serious block of corn plants close enough together to get good pollination takes a serious amount of soil nutrients (specially nitrogen) and water.  It is also a C4 plant, so one one of the few garden crops that can use all the sun you can give it.

The other problem with a serious block of corn plants is that you get a lot of sweet corn, all at once.  Luckily  corn on the cob is made for barbecues.

The Recipe:

Pick the corn as close as possible to eating time.  As soon as you pick it, it begins turning sugars into starch.

Soak the cobs, husk and all, in a sink or a bucket of water for a few minutes, just to get the husk wet all the way through.  Then put the cobs, in their husk, on a hot barbecue.  Cook, turning with tongs, for about 15 minutes till the outer layer of the husk is charred and the corn is hot all the way through.

Provide salt, pepper, butter, lime juice, and finely grated cheese for dressing.  My favourite dressing is Chili Lime Butter, below, and this is the only few weeks of the year when chilis, limes, and sweet corn are all in season together.

Chili Lime Butter

Blend together equal amounts of butter and olive oil.  Blend in chili, lime juice, lime zest, and salt to taste.  I like about one lime (juice and zest) and two medium chilis to each cup of butter-olive oil mix, but just keep adding and tasting till you get it to your taste.

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I am really loving tromboncino. Usually by this time of year, my garden is so full that I skimp on the sweet corn because I just don’t have room for it in my intensively fenced beds.  And if I plant it outside the netting, the bandicoots dig it up, then the wallabies and padimelons eat the plant, then the parrots and possums and brush turkeys eat the corn.

This year though, I haven’t planted any zucchini, and it’s amazing how much space that saves. Tromboncino work with all my zucchini recipes and the climbing vine is sharing the south side of a garden fence with tomatoes and taking up no ground room at all.  I learned last year how prolific they are, so I’ve only got four vines in, one in each of the last four beds I’ve moved the chooks off and planted out.  So they are at four different stages.  If I pick them young (like the ones at the front right in the picture) I can just about keep up with them, so far anyhow.

It means I have room for another round of sweet corn.  I have two lots in so far, one planted in August that will be ready for the first picking in just a few weeks now, and one planted in September that will follow on.  I missed sweet corn in the October planting – just not enough room to plant enough of a block so that it would wind pollinate.  Sweet corn is a herd plant – if you don’t have enough of them, the wind cannot blow the pollen from the flowers of one onto the silks of its neighbours, and you get cobs with lots of kernels missing.

I also have room for some endamame.  Or I will have by the time they are ready to plant out and I have moved the chooks on again. I love endamame but don’t plant them every year either.  Now is about the latest I could plant them, since they are day length sensitive and like long days to flower.  These ones will be flowering in  February, just in time before the days start to shorten at an ever increasing rate.

I shall plant the seed in the shadehouse today, coating each seed in innoculant and planting two to a pot in leaf pots filled with a mixture of compost and creek sand. When they are about 10 cm tall I shall plant out.  They grow to about 50 cm tall, so I’ll plant them out in a closely planted row around the southern side of a bed, in front of the climbers but behind all the shorter carrots and beets and lettuces and spring onions.

The dam is dropping but if we have a normal year, it should start to get wetter from now on, so with luck I’ll be able to keep the water up to a fairly full garden.

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This year’s sweet corn has been less than exciting. First it was mice. There’s an Australia-wide mouse plague going on, and the mice around here have heard about it. I’ve tried a  fake owl, all sorts of elaborate protection, and in the end, bringing them in onto the verandah, using our Weber barbeque as a temporary propagation house, and trying (and not always succeeding) to remember to put the lid on every night!

I have ended up with corn seedlings to plant out, but later and fewer than usual.  Usually I have advanced seedlings of sweet corn 20 cm tall and ready to plant out in September, with succeeding plantings through till February. This year the first batch I successfully got up and planted out wasn’t until November, and then it was only a dozen odd plants.

Which exacerbated the second problem.  Corn is wind pollinated and won’t self pollinate. It does best in a block of at least a few dozen plants, with enough warm dry weather when it flowers (at the top) so the wind can blow the pollen from one plant around the silks of the corn on its neighbours.  We’ve have a distinct shortage of warm dry weather lately, and with just a dozen odd plants in the block, a distinct shortage of suitable dads to fertilize the corn.  I’ve had to hand pollinate, breaking a pollen-bearingflower off one plant and brushing it over the silks of all its neighbours.

Some years there is so much sweet corn, I am using up all my repertoire of corn recipes.  This year, half the cobs were missing kernels. I’ve had to actually choose my favourite recipes to use it on. This one made it.

The Recipe

Makes 4 bowls like this. The recipe has eggs, which give it a decent amount of protein, and corn is such a good, filling, high fibre, low GI food that, with some toast for dipping, that’s a good dinner for four.

  • In a little oil, sauté a chopped onion gently until it is transluscent.
  • While the onion is cooking, strip the kernels from about 3 large cobs of sweet corn, or, if your corn crop is like mine, enough to get two cups of corn kernels.
  • Blend the corn kernels and the onion in 2 cups of vegetable stock. You won’t get it completely smooth – you just want it to the texture of creamed corn.
  • Tip back into the pot and use another cup of stock to rinse out the blender and add it to the pot too.
  • I like to add a couple of tablespoons of grape juice (if grapes are on), or sweet white wine (if I have any) at this point, but it isn’t critical. Sometimes I also add a few drops of sesame oil.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste, then bring back to the boil and simmer for ten minutes or so.
  • While it is simmering, beat three eggs in a bowl.
  • Turn the heat off and stir the soup. Pour the egg into the hot, swirling soup in a thin stream.  The heat in the soup will cook it.
  • Serve in bowls with a little finely chopped spring onions, chives, or chili to garnish.
Did you do the Tuesday Night Vego Challenge this week? Links welcome.

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I saw an episode of Jamie Oliver’s American Food Revolution, where they were teaching people to cook corn on the cob with chili and lime.  The flavour combination inspired these.  They work really well.

Sweet corn and lime basil are both in season in my garden and I’m just starting to pick the first of the limes. If you don’t have lime basil, it’s a different recipe but it works with coriander.

What’s The Breakfast Challenge? A weekly fast, easy, healthy, ethical, in season recipe to challenge the big boxes of mostly air.

The Recipe:

Strip the kernels from 3 cobs of corn.

In the food processor, blend them with

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 dessertspoons of wholemeal self-raising flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 chili (seeds removed)
  • a good handful of lime basil leaves
  • salt and black pepper

Blend for a minute until the chili is chopped quite fine through the mix.

Fry spoonfuls of mixture in a little olive oil until they are golden and set.

Eat hot straight from the pan with a squeeze of lime juice.

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I’m picking sweet corn in my garden at the moment, and even if you aren’t growing it, you should be able to find it in season at your local Farmers’ Market. This is my favourite breakfast at the  moment.  Sweet corn is low GI, which means that it keeps your blood sugar at a nice stable level for hours which makes you feel energetic and clear headed, and the cottage cheese is a good source of protein and calcium. Even better on homemade sourdough toast.

The Recipe:

(Makes 6 laden slices)

Put toast on to cook.

Strip the kernels from two cobs of corn.  Put them in a pot with just a little boiling water, put the lid on, and boil for just a couple of minutes.

Drain the pot and tip the hot kernels into the food processor with two good dessertspoons of low fat cottage cheese and blend. You can keep it going until it is smooth, or leave it with a bit of texture – your choice.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Dollop it onto the toast and eat.

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Not a great photo – I hadn’t intended to Witches Kitchen these.  I was just about to serve  out some left over vegetable soup for lunch and visitors turned up.  These came together in 20 minutes while chatting to the visitors, and with a few additions to the soup, made a knock up lunch into a feast.  They turned out so well, they had to go here.

The Recipe:

Turn the oven on to heat up.  These like a hot oven.

Into your food processor blend together, just until they are combined:

  • 1¼ cups of wholemeal self raising flour
  • good pinch of paprika
  • 4 good dessertspoons of low fat cottage cheese
  • one egg

You should end up with a soft dough that you can knead.

  • Strip the corn off a cob.
  • Chop one or two spring onions, greens and all.
  • Chop 50 grams of low fat feta cheese into little cubes.

Flour your work surface well, tip the dough out onto it, tip the corn, onions and cheese on top and knead the lot together.  You don’t need to knead much – not like bread – just enough to combine it all well.

Pat the dough out to about 3 cm thick and use a small glass to cut out scones.

Place them close together on an oiled baking tray.  Use your fingers to dob a little oil on the top of each scone.  Bake in a hot oven for about 15 minutes until they are lightly browned.

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They aren’t hugely photogenic, but they were really good!  This is one of those miracle dishes that seem to make a small amount of ingredients go a long way – great if you are stretching out dollars or calories, or trying to rustle up something really nice for unexpected guests. This recipe makes 15 pikelets,  most of the ingredients will come out of a summer garden, and it comes together in less than 10 minutes.

Separate 2 eggs and put the yolks in the blender and the whites in a small bowl.

Cut the kernels from a cob of corn and add to the yolks, along with a tablespoon of milk, a small chili, a good tablespoon of herbs and a pinch of salt. My herbs of choice for this are thyme and tarragon, but you could take the flavour profile in another direction with chives and coriander, or parsley and lemon basil.

Blend until the corn is finely chopped but not smooth. Add a small capsicum and just hit the pulse button to chop it but not turn it into paste. Mix in a tablespoon of wholemeal SR flour.

Beat the egg whites with an egg beater till soft peaks form. (With fresh eggs this will take literally 20 seconds – I timed it!) Fold into the corn mix.

Drop tablespoons into a pan with a little olive oil, and fry just a minute or two on each side till golden.

They’re good for breakfast or in a lunchbox, and really good with salad and hot tomato and mango chutney or a tomato salsa.

Tomato Salsa

Finely chop and mix together a small red onion, two or three ripe tomatoes, and a couple of tablespoons of fresh basil or coriander. Add a chili if you like your salsa spicy. Add a desertspoon of balsamic vinegar, a grating of black pepper, a teaspoon of soy sauce, a teaspoon of olive oil and a teaspoon of lime juice. Mix well and let it sit for 10 minutes or while you make the pikelets.

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