GARDENING AT THIS time of year — as summer becomes mellowly fruitful and slips into autumn — I always wax lyrical about sweetcorn and this year is no exception.
Days before the Island’s charity Sweetcorn Fayre, I have been enjoying Mirai Picnic, delivered to me as plug plants in May — and what a difference a few weeks in the sun makes to this plant.
The plants arrived this year well packed and healthy, and quickly took off.
Mirai Picnic is from Dobies of Devon, priced at £7.99 for 22 plug plants.
The vigorous-growing hybrid supersweet variety produced a good crop of fully packed cobs up to 15cm (6ins) in length. It tasted equally good raw or cooked.
Sweetcorn is ripe when the silks shrivel and turn dark brown. They can be checked by pulling aside a small area of husk, looking at the colour of the kernels and squeezing just one.
Sweetcorn are ready to harvest when the kernels are in the 'milk’ stage.
When the fluid inside each kernel is still liquid and the skin of the kernel is still tender then the cob is ready for picking.
If a clear liquid appears, then the corn is immature. If the liquid is milky, then the corn is ready, and if no liquid appears then the corn is over-ripe.
Once the cobs have been picked they can deteriorate very quickly as the sugar within the kernels will rapidly turn to starch.
Ideally, harvest and eat is the mantra.
Try to harvest sweetcorn in the morning before you get a build up of heat but if this is unavoidable submerge the cobs in cold water for a minute or so to let them cool down.
Then, as soon as you can, pop them in the fridge and eat them in a couple of days.
That is the big advantage of growing your own and not getting your cobs from the greengrocer because inevit-ably they will be several days old.
Of course, on the Island, we are blessed with having freshly harvested corn — none more so than at the Sweetcorn Fayre at Arreton Barns, which has in its first nine years raised more than £100,000 for charities.
This year’s festival includes a special 'marriage’ between the fair’s Bob the Cob and Connie Corn.
But what better real, tasteful marriage is there than sweetcorn and garlic butter?
My personal favourite is the Garlic Farm’s oak-smoked but it is, of course, easy to make garlic butter with fresh cloves — and there is a new bulb on the block, courtesy of a collaboration between Colin Boswell, of the farm, and mail order seed company, D. T. Brown.
'Find us the spiciest, tastiest garlic — and one which will thrive in all parts of Britain’ was the challenge which D. T. Brown’s general manager Tim Jeffries made to 'garlic king’ Colin, who travels extensively in search of new and unusual strains of the bulb.
Colin rose to the challenge — and the result is the exclusive launch of garlic Caulk Wight for the 2016-17 growing season.
Russia and other countries in eastern Europe abound with hardneck purple-skinned strains. Colin selected Caulk Wight as one of the very best of these large-cloved, easy-to-peel, vigorous and attractive 'hardnecks’.
It grows particularly well in our relatively soft UK climate, having been trialled successfully in the north or south, but can also withstand temperatures down to minus 20C.
Above ground, it displays a distinctive, dark green, vigorous, wide-leaf formation, while underground the bulb is enclosed in tight leaf wrappers, avoiding the pitfall of many hardneck types in our damp climate, of splitting and opening out.
Dried in the open, on a veranda or in a greenhouse, the outer leaves, which protected it while underground, slip away when dry to display beautiful, plump. pink cloves with purple marbling.
"Caulk Wight is the spiciest, most strongly flavoured garlic I have tasted," said Tim.
"Colin came up with exactly what we asked, and we hope our customers will enjoy this special strain."
As a hardneck type, garlic Caulk Wight is ideal for autumn planting. The bulbs can be ordered from now onwards for delivery from late September.
• D. T. Brown is at http://www.dtbrownseeds.co.uk/