Move over, Orville Redenbacher and Corn Kid. This Hamptons favorite is on its way to sweet corn domination.
Balsam Farms, a higgledy-piggledy collection of open-sided sheds on an unpaved lot in Amagansett, New York, is the proud grower of 100+ varieties of tomatoes, 10 types of potatoes, and 30 different herbs. But there’s only ever one type of sweet corn being sold at the farm stand — and they sell a lot of it.
They sell it by the ear. They sell it jarred as corn relish, and ground into cornmeal and polenta. They sell it frozen. They fire-roast it right at the farm stand and sell it, hot and sweet, for eating on the spot or in the car on the way home from the beach.
What’s their secret? Well, actually, Balsam Farms grows five different types of bicolor corn across the growing season, starting with a variety that ripens early and ending with one that does better late in the summer. Ian Calder-Piedmonte, co-founder and -farmer at Balsam Farms says, “We plant it every week — sometimes every three or four days — so that throughout the summer, we’re picking corn that’s at the right maturity. That’s why our corn is good: We’re pretty careful about picking it at the exact right time.”
The farm stand, in business since 2003, is practical and picturesque. Seasonal veg is displayed on every surface: side-by-side crates of cranberry beans, summer squash, and zucchini bundled upright like pencils; tall tin buckets of sunflowers and zinnias; bushel baskets packed with peppers and tomatoes; pumpkins tumbling off a loose pyramid on the ground. Across the back “wall” of the sheds, shelves hold Balsam Farms preserves, popcorn, and pickles as well as locally-made products. And, of course, there are the tables piled with fresh corn, endlessly replenished, endlessly depleted. At the height of the season, Balsam Farms sells between 3,000 and 4,000 ears of corn a day, picked that morning (and on busy days, in the afternoon, too).
Balsam Farms also sells popping corn — it’s a different crop than sweet corn, city slicker — and, along with a local chef, is experimenting with flavored popcorn. They sell produce to local restaurants and operate a year-round wholesale business that forges on when the farm stand shuts down for the winter after Thanksgiving. (Depending on the weather, they open on some weekends until Christmas.)
One last tip from the corn whisperers at Balsam Farms: When he cooks corn at home, Calder-Piedmonte simply roasts the corn right in the husk on a grill or smoker. But for those who shuck before cooking, he recommends cutting off the bottom part of the ear, then grabbing the husk and silk at the top and pulling. “It sort of all slides off.”