Bob talented at cleaning his ears

Bob talented at cleaning his ears By Bob Karolevitz Phyllis and I don't eat sweet corn the same way.

Oh, we both use butter and salt like we're supposed to, but after that we each do our own thing.

For instance, she nibbles willy-nilly around the cob, leaving lots of tasty kernels behind as she munches haphazardly.

Me? I approach each ear like it was a roller on an ancient Royal typewriter. I start at one end and work my way to the other. Then, like the carriage return on the old machine, I throw it in reverse and begin all over again. No bells ring, of course.

Phyllis's cobs are messy things, but the chickens like them because there's something to pick at. Mine are completely de-kerneled so the fussy hens turn up their beaks at them.

But we do have one thing in common: we both look forward each year to that special South Dakota sweet corn season. Next to sun-ripened, home-grown tomatoes, there's nothing quite like an ear or two as a savory summertime treat.

Making it especially appealing, I'm happy to say that we've now got something called candy corn, bred to palate-pleasing perfection. It wasn't always that way, though.

Phyllis, a country gal, remembers how they ate young field corn on the farm. They called them roasting ears then, but they never roasted them. Instead they boiled them in sugar water to make them sweet.

I was a town kid, so we bought the real thing at the grocery store. That was before they had sophisticated pesticides, so there were always worms which had to be disposed of first.

I don't think I ever got an ear that didn't have part of a row gobbled up by some tiny creature. Of course Mother always cut out the bad parts before she put the ear in the pot on the kitchen range. Worms don't cook up well.

According to people who study that sort of thing, corn originated with American Indians, especially the Incas, Mayans and Aztecs. Columbus carried maize (as it was then called) back to Europe, and Portuguese explorers introduced it to Africa. In the American continents it evolved into dent, flint, flour, sweet and popcorn.

I'll bet you didn't know that each seed on a female cob has its own individual strand of silk. And that each silk is pollinated by barely visible wind-blown pollen from the male tassel, each of which may send out several million grains of the tiny kernel-making stuff.

Another little known fact is that the number of rows of seeds on an ear is always divisible by two � like a calico cat is always a female.

I'm just giving you all this information in case you ever go on Jeopardy or Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?. You never know what they will ask you.

I won't go into the genetics of producing hybrid corn, mostly because I don't understand it myself. I'll leave that to the plant scientists who � among other things � have developed candy corn for which I am very grateful.

When it's all said and done, I'm not about to change Phyllis's corn-eating techniques. After all, I've learned to live with the way she squeezes the toothpaste tube in the middle, so I can certainly stand her unsystematic nibbling as long as she continues to put those delectable ears on the table.

Incidentally, we've quit planting sweet corn in our garden. We've learned that there are other ways to feed the raccoons.

© 2000 Robert F. Karolevitz

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