Dan Tawczynski loves to tell the story of the day his corn hitched a ride on the Concorde. It was more than 20 years ago—the early 1990s—when one of his regular customers asked to pick some corn to send to England. “No way,” Tawczynski told him. “You can’t ship corn to England from Great Barrington!” […]
By Jane Walsh
Jun 15 2017
Sweet Corn HarvestPhoto Credit : Adam Detour
Dan Tawczynski loves to tell the story of the day his corn hitched a ride on the Concorde. It was more than 20 years ago—the early 1990s—when one of his regular customers asked to pick some corn to send to England. “No way,” Tawczynski told him. “You can’t ship corn to England from Great Barrington!” But the customer persisted, insisting that he had to pick it himself. Tawczynski relented, and the gentleman drove to Tawczynski’s Taft Farms at dawn a few days later and filled a small cooler with 18 ears of Kiss ’N Tell, a white and yellow, or “sugar and butter,” variety.
A limousine arrived, the cooler was loaded into the back, and off the corn went to JFK Airport, where it was packed onto the Concorde. It arrived in London in time to be served for dinner. Tawczynski can’t say exactly who ordered it, but he thinks it was intended for a posh dinner party attended by Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York.
Back then, common wisdom still held that corn should be picked “only when the water begins to boil,” lest its precious sugars be allowed to convert to starch before dinner was served. But the great irony of Tawczynski’s story is that the flight of the Concorde was not only excessive but also unnecessary. By the late 1980s, breeders had already begun releasing new, sugar-enhanced varieties that stay sweet for several days after picking—and Kiss ’N Tell was one such variety. It could have flown coach, with connections, and still arrived in London crisp and sweet-tasting.
Tawczynski’s farming career began back in the 1960s, long before the debut of these sugar-enhanced varieties, let alone the subsequent generation of supersweet hybrids such as Jubilee (deep yellow and richly flavored) and 274A (bicolor and extra tender) that are three times as sweet as the Silver Queen of distant memory (though less creamy and with a tougher skin). He remembers planting seeds into mounded rows as a child and talks passionately about his favorite crop—from the rich soil of the Housatonic River Valley, to the warm days and cool Berkshire nights that bring the corn to its peak ripeness, to the challenge of climate change affecting hardiness zones. Corn is just one of dozens of crops that he and his family grow on these 200 acres, but he allocates a quarter of the land to it. He understands that summer wouldn’t be summer without it, and you never know when the world will come calling.
After my own visit to Tawczynski’s farm, I went home to make the following recipes, which celebrate corn season in preparations both savory and sweet—from a hearty summer chowder to sweet corn ice cream for dessert.