TRAMPING through the 50-acre Nozawa Farm in Kahuku reveals lustrous green ears of corn. Inside each, a little worm gnaws at the succulent kernels. Never fear. When Nozawa family members harvest the maize, they trim away the critter with a whack of the machete.
The fact that there's only one worm is the result of three and a half decades of corn research done by Professor James Brewbaker and generations of his graduate students, such as Sarah Nourse of Massachusetts. The tightly compacted kernels allow only one intruder.
A prime result of their research is Hawaiian Supersweet Corn No. 10A, which carries summer's golden sunshine to isle palates year-round. With the holidays making a post-Halloween debut, fresh corn presents a quick, colorful, nutritious addition to seasonal menus. Slice plump kernels off the cob into soups, salads, frittatas, relishes, casseroles and other vegetable side dishes. But preferably, rush the sweet corn on the cob from stalk to microwave, and serve it as is or beneath a buttery rub.
By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
Robert Nozawa harvests ears of corn with his machete.
"I feel corn is under-used in the diet of Hawaii," said Brewbaker, who just released a frisky, eight-page free cook-booklet. "I would like to strongly underscore that the new Hawaiian Supersweets freeze exceedingly well. I routinely do it myself so I can have it 'fresh' any day."
Brewbaker said he tosses the kernels into stir-fries and machine processes it into soups, custards, puddings and ice creams.
"Bring those ears in at a time when they're top quality and you're paying the cheapest price. Steam them for a few minutes in the microwave, drop them in ice water to chill, then cut the kernels off the cob and freeze them in one-cup servings in little resealable plastic bags. You know, it's good months later," he said.
The best places to get corn straight off the farm are at roadside stands in Kahuku and sometimes in Waimanalo.
"We pick and sell and, as we run out, I signal with a horn and the kids run back to the field to cut more," said Clarita "Clare" Nozawa, who tends her 22-year-old, yellow-flagged stand from about 9 a.m. daily -- as long as there's sunshine to ripen the crop.
She and husband, Jigger, 49, son Robert, 26, daughter Stephanie, 23, and Stephanie's fiance, Kalford Keanu Jr., form a five-person team that cultivates 70 acres of corn yearly, patriarch Nozawa said.
The Nozawas sell both bicolor white-and-yellow young, sweet ears and "more mature" yellow ears. all packaged in $2 and $5 bags. They also sell papayas and star fruit. Nozawa corn is also available at Kaimuki Produce, Yamashiro Building Supply in Kaneohe, Nalo Farms and some eateries, such as Walsh's Produce up the road from them.
"The glory of it all is raising good, healthy fruit and having satisfied customers," said Jigger, a Kaaawa pig farmer's son who's been growing corn since 1975. "I love corn myself," said Nozawa, who said he sometimes eats 10 to 12 ears a day.
Hawaii produced 1.4 million pounds of sweet corn valued at $700,000 last year, according to the Hawaii Agricultural Statistics Service. Isle-grown corn represents one-quarter of the market, Brewbaker said in his 1996 "Corn Production in Hawaii" book. Ask grocers for Hawaiian Supersweet, urged his student, Nourse.
By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
Clare and Robert Nozawa help Ronald Saito (in white hat)
and Mori Tamayose with their purchases.
High-fiber, high-carbohydrate corn is low in fat and sodium, according to "The Nutrition Bible" by Jean Anderson and Barbara Deskins (William Morrow and Co., 1995, $30). Corn offers a fair amount of vitamin A, plus traces of iron, vitamin C and some of the B's.
Ten-year Waimanalo corn planter Calvin Hamachi said isle diners are fortunate to get field-fresh corn, but should take steps to preserve its pristine quality.
"Yes, fresh corn is good but the sugar in corn tends to deteriorate soon after harvest," Hamachi said. "When people do buy corn on the side of the road, they should chill it down properly and keep it cooled down until the time they're ready to eat it. The sugar will break down even under chilled conditions, but at least chilling will slow it down."
Seeds from the Hawaiian Super-sweet hybrid have made their way to Australia, Malaysia, Zimbabwe, India, Latin America, the Carib-bean and Nigeria, Brewbaker said. "Hawaiian Supersweet is really, truly international now. It's a little recommendation back to the University of Hawaii itself for the hard work that is done on behalf of the public."
"We don't charge for or patent it. The only way the UH College of Tropical Agriculture or the UH Horticulture Department reaps rewards is through this kind of note that public monies are spent in the public's interest. We respect it when corn farmers make good money, because we're working for them as well as the consumer."
For seeds, call the Hawaii Agricultural Research Center at 487-5561.
Recipes follow to capture the golden sunshine of fresh Hawaiian Supersweet corn in holiday dishes, including Brewbaker's original recipe for fresh corn haupia.
KernelsHarvest recipes for fresh corn-filled soups, chowders, relishes, salsas, salads, baked dishes, fritters, breads, vegetable dishes and desserts in:
Cook-booklet: "Supersweet Corn-Ucopia"
Edited by: James Brewbaker
Call: 956-2156 or 956-7985