Silver Queen. How evocative is that phrase? For your faithful correspondent, it conjures the corner farm market, whose produce came from the fields down the road. Every day at 6 p.m. in corn season (stretched out by serial plantings), a flat of Silver Queen arrived behind a tractor. The second picking of the day, timed to catch the home-bound traffic.
You walked down to the end of the driveway when the line of cars backed up past your house because the tractor was making its slow progress down the two-lane road. Put a dollar in your pocket and came back with six ears, which you husked and placed in the pot of water that you had put on the stove to boil just before you left the house. Ate some off the cob, stripped the rest for next day’s lunch.
It wasn’t anything special; Silver Queen was what was planted for eating corn in Maryland forty years ago. It was everywhere, in every farm stand on New Hampshire Avenue from the Silver Spring line to Damascus.
It had great corn flavor, but its sweetness was ephemeral. It had to be cooked as soon as picked, or it would turn starchy. Nobody grows it anymore. It’s been supplanted by a thing that looks like corn, but tastes of nothing but sugar.
Now, this was meant to be a report on the state of agriculture in Maryland, as represented by the 2014 Governor’s Buy Local Cookout, but I see it has turned into an exercise in nostalgia. Bear with me. There was Silver Queen at the cookout, because at least one farmer in Maryland is still growing it.
Goat Cheese and Silver Queen Corn Cake with Smoky Tomato Ginger Jam, it said on the sign, and indeed, it was a fine goat cheese and corn cake, and the jam was nice too, but I would have been just as happy (happier!) with a just-picked ear, freshly shucked and plainly boiled, with a little butter and salt.
Chef Bryan Davis, of The Classic Catering People in Owings Mills, told me that the retro-farmer responsible for the corn was Nick Bailey of Grand View Farm in Forest Hill. I’m planning a field trip for the 2015 corn season.
Meanwhile, on another part of the Governor’s lawn, the crowd of folks involved in food production and distribution in Maryland were milling around the tables trying samples of our state’s bounty. There were patriotic shorts,
local and state-wide personalities,
and, of course, the Watermelon Queen.
The tables offered delicious food prepared by local chefs
and tipples by local distilleries and wineries.
including the Olney Farmers Market’s own Mark Mills of Chocolates and Tomatoes Farm.
Governor O’Malley entertained not only by reading a Proclamation, as one would expect from a governor, but by singing and playing, as well.
As the sun set over Annapolis, another successful Buy Local Cookout concluded. And I left with the taste of Silver Queen on my palate.