Secrets of the Corn from Morning Glory Farm on Martha's Vineyard Print
Written by Ann Shepphird   

Morning Glory Farms cover pageWith a farm stand that has become a Martha's Vineyard institution (attracting everyone from celebrities and islanders to foodies and restauranteurs), Morning Glory Farms was started 30 years ago when the Athearn family bought a tractor and set up a table to sell their vegetables. The story of the Athearns and their family farm -- plus 70 recipes inspired by their produce -- can be found in the new book “Morning Glory Farm and the Family That Feeds an Island” by Tom Dunlop, with photographs by Alison Shaw.

Here, in an excerpt from the book, are some tips from Morning Glory Farm on picking the perfect ear of corn along with a recipe for corn muffins (as we enter these last few weeks of corn season):

The crop that invariably earns so much affection at Morning Glory is the corn. So what makes Morning Glory corn snap with such exceptional sweetness in the mouth? According to the Athearns, you can answer this question three ways—none of them perfectly correct by themselves. The first is the types of corn they grow. After thirty years in the business, the family relies on ten or twelve varieties, bred to various degrees of sweetness. When there are two types on sale at the farm stand, customers often ask Jim Athearn which is the sweetest. He answers, “Well, this one is, but maybe that’s not the question you want to ask. Maybe it’s, ‘Which one tastes better?’” Among his favorite varieties is Silver Queen. It’s neither as sweet nor as tender as Delectable, a popular sugar-enhanced variety; still, it has “a character to its flavor that I’ve been trying to describe to people for years, but haven’t managed to.” The second factor: how it’s harvested. (Click "read more" for whole post and corn muffin recipe.)

For the busiest months of the summer, the Athearns plant the corn so that a day’s supply comes ripe every twenty-four to seventy-two hours. If you’re at the stand when it opens at 9 a.m. and you see Jim or his sons Simon and Dan dumping burlap sacks of corn into the bin, some of those ears might have been on the stalk just ten minutes earlier. The corn is hand-picked at ripeness, but Simon makes a further point: It’s hand-selected. As he platoons his way through a stand of corn—his record is picking eight bushels, or roughly 480 ears, in a coffee-propelled fifteen minutes—Simon swiftly feels each ear to determine whether it’s fat, rounded at the tip, and thus ready for sale. He will also eat an ear or two raw, right in the field, to make sure it is perfectly ripe. Finally, there’s the matter of adversity: A Vineyard farmer contends with an unusual combination of challenges—growing seasons that turn relentlessly dry and breezy, soil that requires constant replenishment, and maybe something in the salty air that makes crops fight back by growing more hardy and sweet.“ I still think nine-tenths of it is growing a good variety and picking it at the right time and selling it to the customer fresh,” says Jim. “But if people’s palates are able to discriminate more than that, then good.”

Corn Muffins

There’s corn muffins, and there are these: Morning Glory corn has a curious sweetness that brings out the best in almost any dish calling for fresh corn.

Preparation time: 20 minutes • Cooking time: 30–35
minutes • Servings: 12 large muffins

2 cups whole milk
1 cup sugar
½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted
2 eggs
2 cups fresh corn
2 cups cornmeal
2 cups flour
1/8 cup baking powder
1 tsp. salt
Turbinado sugar, for muffin tops
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 12 muffin cups with paper muffin liners.
In a large bowl, combine milk, sugar, butter, eggs, and corn.Whisk until combined.

In a separate bowl, sift cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt.

Add dry ingredients to wet mixture in larger bowl.

Mix until just incorporated, being careful not to overmix.

Scoop mixture into muffin cups until ¾ full. Sprinkle with sugar and bake 35–40 minutes, until muffins are golden brown and spring back when lightly touched.

For more information or to purchase the book on Amazon, click "Morning Glory Farm and the Family That Feeds an Island."