Sweet corn on the cob may be one of the most quintessential summer foods.

Corn is one of the few vegetable crops that originated in the Americas. American Indians originally developed sweet corn by selecting for sweetness qualities.

We are fortunate that we live in an area where we can enjoy locally grown corn mostly all summer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Americans eat about 25 pounds of corn each year.

Interestingly, the average ear of corn, arranged in 16 rows, has approximately 800 kernels. There is one piece of silk for each kernel.

Corn is a low-fat, cholesterol-free food. Sweet corn is also high in fiber, folate, niacin, and some vitamin A. Current research suggests that folate may help reduce the risk of a stroke and heart disease. It has also been found to prevent neural-tube birth defects. Fiber helps to keep the intestinal track running smoothly.

Traditionally, boiling is the way to prepare corn on the cob. However, it can also be steamed, grilled, roasted and even microwaved.

Freezing Sweet Corn

Select only tender, freshly gathered corn. Husk and trim the ears, remove silks and wash in cold water.

Corn on the cob — Water blanch small ears (1-1/4 inches or less in diameter) 7 minutes, medium ears (1-1/2 inches in diameter or more) 9 minutes. Cool in an ice water bath for approximately the same amount of time as blanching.

Cool completely. Drain and package in gallon-size zip closure freezer bags. Push excess air from the bags, seal and freeze. Leave space between each bag until frozen.

• Whole Kernel Corn — Water blanch corn on the cob for 4 minutes. Cool promptly in ice water for 4 minutes. Drain and cut corn from the cob. Cut kernels from the cob about 2/3 the depth of the kernels. Package in zip-closure freezer bags or rigid containers leaving 1/2-inch head space.

Canning Corn

Corn can be canned as whole kernel or cream style. Slight differences in preparation result in very different processing times. When canning you must follow tested recipes for a safe product.

Husk corn, remove silk, and wash. Blanch 3 minutes in boiling water. Cut corn from cob at about 3/4 the depth of kernel. Canning of some sweeter varieties or too immature kernels may cause browning.

• For hot packing: To each quart of kernels in a saucepan, add 1 cup of hot water. Heat to boiling and simmer 5 minutes. Add 1 tsp. salt per quart to the jar, if desired. Fill jars with corn and cooking liquid, leaving 1-inch headspace. Adjust lids and process based on the most up to date information provided by the National Center for Home Food Preservation http://nchfp.uga.edu/.

• For raw packing: Fill jars with raw kernels, leaving 1-inch headspace. Do not shake or press down. Add 1 tsp. of salt per quart to the jar, if desired. Add fresh boiling water, leaving 1-inch headspace. Adjust lids and process based on the most up to date information provided by the National Center for Home Food Preservation http://nchfp.uga.edu/.

Cucumber, Corn and Bean Salsa

2-3 large cucumbers

2 tomatoes

1 yellow bell pepper

1 small red onion

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1/2 cup black beans

1/2 cup fresh whole kernel corn, cooked

1 oz. package dry ranch dressing mix

1/8 cup cider vinegar

2 Tbsp. sugar, optional

Wash all vegetables. Finely chop cucumbers, tomatoes, pepper, and onion. Combine in a large mixing bowl with chopped cilantro. Drain and rinse beans and add to chopped vegetables.

Add corn. If using canned corn instead of fresh, drain off liquid prior to adding to vegetables. In a small bowl, mix together ranch dressing packet, vinegar, and sugar. Pour dressing over vegetables and mix well. Serve immediately or refrigerate until chilled.

Source: University of Kentucky Extension Service

Summer Garden Lasagna

5 medium zucchini

2 yellow summer squash

3 Tbsp. olive oil

2 large eggplants, sliced 1/2 inch

8 oz. plain Greek yogurt

2 cups low fat cottage cheese

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

2 tsp. salt

1 medium yellow onion, diced 1/4 inch

1/4 cup fresh chives, chopped

2 garlic cloves, pressed

10 oz. fresh spinach

1 (24 oz.) jar spaghetti sauce

8 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese

Garnish with fresh basil leaves

Thinly slice zucchini and summer squash 1/4 inch thick and toss with 1 Tbsp. olive oil and 1 tsp. salt. Roast in oven at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes, turn slices after 10 minutes. Slice eggplants, toss with 1 Tbsp. olive oil; place on baking sheet. Roast in oven at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, turn slices after 10 minutes. If needed, place under broiler for 5 minutes to reduce excess moisture. Mix together yogurt, cottage cheese, fresh basil,1 tsp. salt, diced onion and chives.

Sauté garlic in remaining olive oil until golden. Add spinach to pan and cook until wilted. Spoon half of roasted zucchini, squash, and sauteed garlic into a greased 9-by-11 inch baking dish. Coat evenly with half of the cottage cheese and yogurt mixture. Place an even layer of eggplants on cottage cheese mixture. Spread a layer of spaghetti sauce on eggplants and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Repeat process for one more layer. Bake at 425 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped basil and cheese for garnish.

Source: University of Kentucky Extension Service

Tomato Corn Pesto Pizza

3 plum or Roma tomatoes

1/4 tsp. onion powder

1/8 tsp. freshly ground or seasoned pepper

1/2 cup basil pesto

1 (14-16 oz.) whole wheat or regular packaged pre-baked pizza crust, thin crust

2/3 cup fresh corn kernels

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 tsp. honey

4 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese

3 Tbsp. fresh whole or torn basil leaves, if desired, (optional)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Slice tomatoes into 1/4-inch slices; place tomato slices on paper towels; sprinkle with onion powder and pepper; let stand 20 minutes. Spread pizza crust with pesto. Stir together corn kernels, Parmesan cheese and honey.

Top pizza with corn mixture, tomato slices and mozzarella cheese. Place pizza directly on middle oven rack; bake approximately 12-14 minutes or until cheese is melted and golden. Remove from oven and top with fresh basil.

Source: University of Kentucky Extension Service

Corn Critter Salad

1 cup corn (fresh cooked, canned and drained, or frozen)

1 cup cooked (or canned) black beans

2 Tbsp. diced green or red peppers

2 Tbsp. cilantro leaves

1 Tbsp. cider vinegar

1 tsp. vegetable oil

Drain (or thaw and drain) corn. Drain black beans. Wash and chop peppers and cilantro leaves. Mix all ingredients together in a medium sized bowl. Enjoy.

Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours.

Notes: One large ear of corn makes about 1 cup of cut corn.

Source: Oregon State University Extension Service

Corn Pancakes

1⁄2 cup cornmeal

1⁄2 cup all-purpose flour

1 Tbsp. baking powder

1⁄2 tsp. salt

2 large eggs

1⁄2 cup nonfat or 1% milk

2 cups cooked corn* (canned and drained, frozen, or fresh cooked)

Cooking spray for skillet

Mix corn meal, flour, baking powder and salt. Beat the eggs and milk together and add to the flour mixture. Add corn and mix well.

Lightly spray a large skillet or griddle with non-stick cooking spray or lightly wipe with oil. Heat skillet or griddle over medium heat (300 degrees in an electric skillet). Pour batter onto hot griddle to make individual pancakes. Cook until golden on the bottom. Turn and cook on other side.

Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours.

Source: Oregon State University Extension Service

Summertime Sensation Casserole

4 strips turkey bacon

1/3 cup minced onion

3 Tbsp. diced green pepper

4 ears fresh sweet corn

1/2 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. black pepper

1 tsp. dried sweet basil

2 cups tomatoes, chopped

1/3 cup reduced fat shredded cheddar cheese

In a large skillet, cook turkey bacon until crisp. Drain turkey bacon on paper towel, chop and put aside. Do not drain pan. Cook onion and green pepper in bacon drippings over medium heat until tender.

Cut corn from cob and add to onion and green pepper mixture in skillet. Add salt, black pepper, basil and tomatoes. Cook 5-10 minutes. Add chopped turkey bacon and cook an additional minute.

Pour skillet contents into a greased 1-1/2 quart casserole dish. Top with shredded cheddar cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbling

Source: University of Kentucky Extension Service

Mexican Casserole

1-1/2 lbs. ground beef

1 envelope taco seasoning

3/4 cup water

1 can (16 oz.) refried beans

1/2 cup salsa

6 flour tortillas (6 inches)

2 cups fresh cooked corn

2 cups (8 oz.) shredded Cheddar cheese

Shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, sliced ripe olives and sour cream, optional

In a large skillet, cook beef over medium heat until no longer pink; drain. Stir in taco seasoning and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a microwave-safe bowl, combine beans and salsa. Cover and microwave for 1-2 minutes or until spreadable. Place 3 tortillas in a greased round 2-1/2-quart baking dish. Layer with half of the beef, bean mixture, corn and cheese; repeat layers.

Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes or until cheese is melted. Let stand for 5 minutes. Serve with lettuce, tomatoes, olives and sour cream, if desired.

Source: University of Vermont Extension Service

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