Briary Creek Farms' "Ambrosia" Corn: Corny and Sweet and Tender
Until now, each summer we tried the available corn from area farms, mostly Super-Sweet varieties. The typical response to the first bite of one of these ears at our table: a shrug -- oh well, too bad, no corn flavor. Sugar in a corn kernel package, with no corniness, misses the point.
We knew from personal and family experience that Kentucky can produce marvelous corn-y sweet corn. Last year we even tried to grow heritage Golden Cross Bantam ourselves in a too-tiny city plot, with predictably little yield, but the few tiny ears we ate confirmed our preference for corny-tasting sweet corn. At the same time, we realize central Kentucky growers need to grow corn that will hold appropriate sweetness for more than a few hours after picking, so the farmers have time to bring it to market and customers have time to get home and cook the corn, none of which would work with the richly corn-y heritage varieties.
Each summer we visit family in Massachusetts and buy the local favorite Butter and Sugar corn from farm stands. We eat it nearly every day. Butter and Sugar corn perfectly balances sweetness and corniness. Until this summer, most commercially available corn in central Kentucky just made us wish for Butter and Sugar.
The "Genetics" section of the Wikipedia entry on sweet corn explains that three types of known genetic mutations account for the varying levels of sweetness in sweet corn. A quick, over-simplified summary -- which I hope is accurate:
Sweet corn bearing the "su" mutation includes the corn Native Americans produced, as well as Butter and Sugar and Golden Cross Bantam. Su sweet corn contains about 5 - 10 percent sugar by weight.
Sweet corn that manifests the "supersweet" mutation includes varieties like How Sweet It Is, and contains 4 - 10 times as much sugar as the standard "su" sweet corn.
Sweet corn that features the "sugary enhanced" or "se" mutation, which includes Ambrosia, contains "12 - 20% sugars compared to su varieties."
The su types do not hold their sweetness long; supersweet and se do, making them ideal for growers who must pick corn and travel some distance to market. I have not talked with anyone from Briary Creek Farms about how they settled on the se type Ambrosia for their Lexington Farmers Market sales. I am guessing the answer includes a flavor that is corny and sweet without being too sweet, sweetness and flavor that hold for days, and, possibly, ease of germination, cultivation, and production.
One more reason to love Briary Creek's Ambrosia corn is that these smart growers don't let the crop get too large and hard, as some growers do. In fact, if asked, Briary Creek vendors quickly and accurately select less mature or more mature ears upon request. We like more tender, younger corn, and we get it every time from Briary Creek Farms. Savoring Kentucky thanks these growers for their consistent, excellent, delicious, ambrosial corn.
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The world is coming to visit central Kentucky this year for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. To help our visitors know more about Kentucky's food and food ways, Savoring Kentucky is rolling out 116 Savory Kentucky Bites, one for each of the 100 days before WEG begins, and 16 for the days during WEG, September 25 - October 10. Today's Savory Bite is number 51.