Fresh corn is, to me, the ultimate summertime treat. Nothing quite captures the season like biting into a hot ear of just-cooked sweet corn, dressed with a little butter and a sprinkle of salt. So when I was asked to visit Altobelli Family Farms, our main supplier of local corn, I was all ears…
The produce team and I traveled up the Hudson Valley, into the Berkshires, and ended up in Kinderhook, NY where the Altobelli family welcomed us into their home and onto their fields. We spent a lovely afternoon snacking on fresh-picked corn (naturally), wandering down rows of lovely vegetables and flowers, and chatting with John Altobelli about farming.
John’s family has been working the land since 1953, when John’s grandfather first purchased the 180 acres that are now home to bi-color corn, eggplant, tomatoes, squash, and more. John joined the family business in the 1980s after relocating from the city.
Soon after his arrival, the Altobelli family started growing corn… and growing corn… and growing even more corn. Today, roughly 70% of their land is devoted to the tall, gorgeous stalks.
The Altobelli family is also devoted to protecting their land by practicing zone tillage (allowing alternating strips of land to rest and rejuvenate each year) and using as few pesticides as possible.
As a member of the Cornell Committee, John also keeps up with the latest developments in best-practice agriculture, always keen to maintain the quality of his land and improve the quality of his products. Rest assured, he is no mad scientist. John and his team hand-select each ear of corn that is sent to FreshDirect and make sure we get nothing but corn that is sweet, big, and juicy. Oh, and John delivers it to us himself! So it’s picked, packed, and at your door within 24 hours.
When I asked John what the best thing about being a farmer is, he replied, “The enjoyment of growing something from a seed and providing food for people.”
Well, John, all I can say is your care and dedication pays off–the Altobelli corn is out-of-this-world delicious. Oh, and thanks for the tractor-trailer ride! It’s not often I get a chance to cruise around in one of those down here in the Big Apple.
5 Corny Tips and Fun Facts
1. If the classic combo of salt and butter doesn’t float your boat, try corn with mayonnaise, hot sauce and finely grated Parmesan cheese or a lime zest-garlic compound butter. Even better, go au natural and eat it straight-up with nothing on at all (it really is that good!).
2. Becky Altobelli quick-blanches husked and cleaned ears of corn before tightly wrapping them in a couple of layers of plastic wrap and storing them in the freezer for the winter months. Alternatively, you could just buy it already frozen here.
3. There are more than two hundred varieties of corn. All are good sources of vitamin C.
4. Because of its high protein and carbohydrate content, corn has been an important nutritional resource for thousands of years.
5. Each grain of corn produces one single silk strand. Every grain’s strand must receive some pollen from the tassel at the top of the plant if it is to develop into a juicy kernel.