Food from the Bountiful Garden:
Corn on the Cob

In my mother’s kitchen, we would put the water on the stove to cook the corn—or what my mother called “summer’s golden child”—before it was even picked. She loved corn.

I can see her face and hear her voice as she said, “Shuck it outside and be quick about it.” She delighted in the gifts from the garden and instructed the younger kids (I’m the oldest) that each harvest was timely and special. We were encouraged to try everything. Along with the beautiful, sweet, tricolored corn, I learned to like vegetables that most kids of my generation had never heard of: Swiss chard, kohlrabi, brussels sprouts, Romanesco broccoli.

Memory makes liars of us all. Poppa’s corn wasn’t perfect, but it was sweet. When corn season arrived, it was the only food I craved. Most of the time I didn’t need butter, and sometimes I didn’t need salt and pepper either. If you do like butter on your corn, don’t complicate it. Soft butter with spices and whatever herbs that are on hand are more than adequate.

We boiled the corn in a big, old, black and white spotted enamel pot, and it usually reached perfection in about five minutes. Today you can find numerous recipes for corn on the cob, including some that cut the corn into BBQ ribs (difficult to do) and some that instruct you to microwave it. But don’t.

Following are some recipes and ideas that will make this delightful but sometimes overlooked vegetable one of your favorites.

Flavorful Butter Combinations for Corn on the Cob

First of all, in the summer months, room-temperature butter should be soft. Combining two sticks (½ pound) of butter with 1–1½ teaspoons of spice should be sufficient.

As for the spices and herbs, I’m sure you’ll have at least a few of these in your pantry:

  • Dried oregano and basil or Italian seasonings
  • Crab boil spice
  • Montreal steak spice
  • Hungarian paprika and lime zest
  • Garlic powder and onion powder

Try any of the above or experiment with your own concoctions and let me know how it turns out. As a food blogger, I’m always interested in kitchen-testing your creations and adding them to my list. This summer, this author was inspired by the bounty of the little home garden. I wrote posts about tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash flowers (the most popular of my posts so far) and now corn.

I know of another garden wonder that pairs beautifully with corn. Chances are, you were going to pick some today but accidentally left it on the vine: green zucchini. As gardeners know, this is a most prolific vegetable, and from letters I’ve received in the past, you’re anxious to find new ways to use it.

Well, here’s an easy and delicious summer soup that uses corn and zucchini—the last treasures of the home gardener. If you follow my posts, you’ll know that green zucchini is the star in a classic minestrone—aka “big soup.” (Minestra is a “little soup,” but that’s another post just waiting to be written.)

Corn and Zucchini Soup

Chef’s note: This soup takes less than 30 minutes to cook in my summer kitchen. That leaves me plenty of time to enjoy it outdoors, sitting under the big market umbrella on the north deck. I serve this soup right from the Dutch oven into cute bowls with homemade Italian bread. Oh…and pass the Parmigiano-Reggiano to shave over the top.


3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 lb. bulk (no casing) sweet Italian sausage, chorizo, or Andouille sausage
1 teaspoon dried thyme or 2 tablespoons fresh
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups chicken broth
2 medium zucchinis, slice into ¼- to ½-inch slices
2 cups fresh corn, removed from the cob (also scrape milk from the cobs)
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
Special equipment: Dutch oven (5 to 6 quarts)


  1. Heat olive oil and butter in Dutch oven. Add onion and sausage and cook for about 5 minutes, until the onion is soft and the sausage is lightly browned.
  2. Add thyme, garlic, and chicken broth. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Add zucchini and corn with the cob milk. Simmer 5 minutes, or until zucchini is tender. Add salt and pepper. Taste soup and correct seasonings.

Wishing you the best of summer’s bounty.

Main image from iStock/Mila Naumova. Post image from Phyllis Quinn. 

Phyllis Quinn

Phyllis Quinn is a chef, food writer, and founder of Udderly Cultured, a class that teaches how to make homemade fresh mozzarella, butter, yogurt, cottage cheese, and other cultured products. Private lessons are available. For a reservation, call Phyllis at 970-221-5556 or email her at Rediscover nearly lost cooking methods and get one-of-a-kind recipes in her books The Slow Cook Gourmet and Udderly Cultured: The Art of Milk Fermentation.

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