Many of us wait all year for local farmers markets to open in the spring, me included. But what I really look forward to is that week in July when the Shelby & Ross corn trailer shows up at the market.
For three to four solid weeks, my family eats corn on the cob, creamed corn, corn chowder, corn salsa and just about any manner of corn. I’m a self-proclaimed cornivore! This year, the market and the corn were late to arrive, but they are both in full swing now so it’s time to celebrate, quickly, for there are only a couple of weeks left, with a cornucopia (pun intended!) of delicious corn recipes.
But first, the corn. Head to the Tulsa Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings during July and August and you’re almost guaranteed to run into Cristin and Bill Shelby of Shelby & Ross Produce. During prime market season, the Shelbys sell sweet corn, watermelons, cantaloupes and, come fall, all kinds of pumpkins. Saturday, July 11, and the following weekend, however, will be the last weeks for sweet corn.
The Shelby farm began pre-statehood in 1902 when Bill’s great-grandfather, Andrew Ross, was given a 40-acre allotment through the Cherokee Nation while he was still in the womb. It is currently farmed by three generations including Bill’s grandfather Robert Ross Sr., his uncle Bob Ross Jr. and Bill.
“I sold corn with my brothers and cousins by the side of the road in Webbers Falls when I was 10 years old,” Bill Shelby said. “When I got my driver’s license, I was expected to head somewhere else to sell, allowing the younger kids to stay local.”
When he turned 16, Shelby drove three hours to Enid, sold a truckload of corn, drove home and loaded up the truck again before driving back to Enid to sell the rest. “It was how I made extra money for college,” Shelby said.
This year, the farm has 95 acres devoted to sweet corn. It is mostly harvested at night so it is ready to be sold retail or wholesale by the next morning.
“We stagger the planting of the acreage six or seven times so all of the corn is not ready at the same,” Shelby said. “It’s so perishable, and we want it to be as fresh as possible when it arrives at market.”
The Shelbys started selling produce at the Tulsa Farmers’ Market in 2007, he said.
“Cristin and I do the market in Kendall Whittier, my brother does Broken Arrow and my other brother goes to Edmond and Norman,” he said.
Cristin and Bill live in Muskogee with their three children, Eli, Kate and Claire, all of whom help dole out corn at the farmers market.
Shelby & Ross sweet corn can be found at many locations throughout northeast Oklahoma, but many spots sell out quickly — it’s not unusual for customers to buy 20 bushels at a time.
Visit the Shelby & Ross Facebook page for a complete listing of locations selling their corn. The corn trailer will be at the Tulsa Farmers’ Market this weekend and next weekend with corn — after that, keep your eyes open for cantaloupe and watermelon.
Butter Bath Corn on the Cob
Makes 6 ears
Cooking corn in a butter-laden bath infuses each kernel with buttery goodness – consider it a spa day for the corn cobs. You could throw in some fresh herbs or chile flakes for additional flavor, but these cobs are amazing as is.
4 cups water
6 ears corn, husked and halved or cut into thirds
1 cup milk
1 stick unsalted butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1. Fill a large pot with 4 cups water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, husk and halve 6 ears corn.
2. Add 1 cup milk, 1 stick unsalted butter, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt to the pot. Carefully add the corn and reduce the heat to medium. Boil for 8 minutes.
3. Use tongs to remove the corn from the butter bath and serve.
*Adapted from The Kitchn
Sweet Corn Chowder
Serves 6 to 8
This rich and creamy soup is delicious as is, but feel free to stir in shrimp, fish (I used halibut with excellent results) or clams during the last few minutes of cooking for additional flavor and heartiness.
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
¼ cup all-purpose flour
8 cups canned vegetable stock
2 cups heavy cream
2 Idaho potatoes, peeled and diced
6 ears corn
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
1. Heat the butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and thyme and cook until the vegetables are good and soft, 8 to 10 minutes. Dust the vegetables with flour and stir to coat everything well.
2. Pour in the vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Add the cream and the potatoes, bring to a boil and boil hard for about 7 minutes, until the potatoes break down (this will help to thicken the soup and give it a good texture).
3. Cut the corn kernels off the cob and add to the soup. Season with salt and pepper and simmer until the corn is soft, about 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in the parsley and give it another little drink of olive oil. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve.
— Adapted from Tyler Florence
Serves 4 to 6
Esquites is a street food salad, a staple in Mexico. It is reminiscent of the mayo and cheese-coated corn on the cob dish but served in cups, and it’s a great way to serve in-season sweet corn. If you prefer less heat, remove the seeds and vein from the peppers before dicing. For a heartier salad, add some cooked pasta or grains.
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 cups fresh corn kernels, cut from cob
¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
2 jalapeno or serrano
¼ cup crumbled queso fresco or cotija cheese, plus more for serving
¼ cup mayonnaise or Mexican crema
1-2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice, plus wedges for serving
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne
½ teaspoon chili powder
1. Heat the butter in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the corn and cook, stirring occasionally, until toasted and golden brown, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the corn cool for a few minutes.
2. Transfer the corn to a large bowl. Add the cilantro, jalapeño, Cotija, mayonnaise, lime juice, salt, cayenne and chili powder, and stir to combine. Top with more Cotija and serve warm or at room temperature, with lime wedges.
3. Make ahead: The corn can be cooked up to a day in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature for about 15 minutes before assembling the salad.
Grilled Corn on the Cob with Sun-Dried Tomato Butter
Makes 6 ears of corn
Grilled corn and flavored butter are a match made in heaven. Sun-dried tomatoes add a burst of umami to this flavorful recipe, but feel free to add whatever spices or herbs you have on hand.
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons finely chopped, drained
oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
1 teaspoon minced garlic
¼ teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning corn
¼ teaspoon black pepper, plus more for seasoning corn
6 corn cobs, husks and silk removed
Olive oil, for brushing
1. Beat butter in a bowl with a wooden spoon or electric mixer until light and fluffy. Mix in parsley, tomatoes, garlic, salt and pepper. Transfer butter mixture to a sheet of plastic wrap, form into a log and roll up, twisting ends to seal. Refrigerate until firm.
2. Heat a barbecue grill on high heat. Brush corn with oil. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 10 minutes, turning occasionally or until tender and charred. Transfer to a cutting board and cut in half or thirds, if desired. Arrange on a serving platter
3. Remove and discard plastic from butter. Cut into rounds and place on hot corn. Serve immediately.
Makes 4 cups
This would be delicious piled into tacos, over a burger or mixed into burrito bowls. I’m happy just spooning it into my mouth via a tortilla chip. Feel free to stir in some diced avocado, chopped tomatoes or black beans. Use corn that has been grilled, steamed, boiled or sautéed.
3 cups cooked corn kernels (from about 4 cobs of shucked sweet corn)
1 cup finely chopped red onion
½ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro (about 1 bunch)
1-2 jalapeño peppers, finely chopped
1 yellow or orange bell pepper, seeded and diced
¼ cup lime juice (about 2 limes), to taste
¼ teaspoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1. Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl. Adjust seasoning if desired with more lime juice, chili powder, salt or pepper.
2. For best flavor, allow the salsa to marinate for 20 minutes before serving. This salsa keeps well in the refrigerator, covered, for 3 to 4 days.
Southern Creamed Corn
Serves 6 to 8
Traditional Southern-style creamed corn has no more than three ingredients — corn, butter and cream. I can’t resist adding a bit of salt, but it’s not necessary.
6 ears fresh sweet corn, shucked
4 tablespoons butter
½ cup half and half or heavy cream
Kosher salt, to taste
1. Working over a big, shallow bowl with your sharpest knife, cut corn kernels off the cobs. Then, using the back side of your knife, held crosswise at a right angle to the cob, scrape the milk and fiber out of the remainder of the kernels. It’ll take a fair amount of pressure. Repeat for all the ears.
2. Melt the butter over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Add the corn and reduce the heat to medium.
3. Stir with a wooden spoon until the corn soaks up all the butter and starts to look a little translucent, about three to four minutes. Add the cream and reduce heat to low.
4. Cook, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, until most of the cream is absorbed. Cover and keep warm until ready to serve.