IT'S SWEET-CORN season, but with more condos than cornfields dotting our landscape, the delights of dining on fresh corn are largely lost to those who don't know where to find it.
Fresh sweet corn, according to connoisseurs such as the wistful ex-Midwesterner who recalls his mother boiling the water and then sending him out to pick the corn, is simply not available at the supermarket.
Cicero Farms, located at Pierce College and open for business at the corner of Victory Boulevard and De Soto Street in Woodland Hills is a prime spot for buying sweet corn that is grown locally and picked hourly. The stand also offers vegetables and fruits grown on the campus and is open from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. daily, May through November. According to Joe Cicero, the stand's owner who has been in the produce business for more than 40 years, corn tends to suffer at the hands of chefs who are unclear about what to do with the truly fresh variety. He advises that corn be placed in boiling water and cooked for 2 1/2 minutes after boiling recommences.
Sarah Henry, on staff at The Farm Stand, claims that White Silver Queen corn is so tender that you can eat it raw. In addition to other produce in season, this month this farmer-to-consumer outlet offers Muscat grapes, an old native vine no longer cultivated commercially in the area. Located four miles east of Escondido at the corner of San Pasqual Valley Road and Summit Drive, the stand is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, March through November.
Scatter-planting is a technique employed by farmers to ensure a continuing supply of new corn. The results of this method can be had through September's end at Cavion Farms in Ontario (exit Highway 60 at the Mountain Avenue off ramp). The stand is well-known for sweet corn and for the small variety of home-grown vegetables (including vine-ripened tomatoes). Open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, March through September.
Not all stands are in country settings. Lopez Ranch, featuring in-season produce and daily picked corn grown in nearby Saugus, is very much in the city at 12681 W. Jefferson Blvd. in Playa del Rey. Open 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. daily. Also for sale: plants, pots, soil--even pinatas .
Additional produce stands offering wares direct from the farmer include:
Central Market, off Highway 101 at Central Avenue, in Camarillo: This is actually two stands; the small stand is east side of freeway, the large stand to the west. Variety of fruits, vegetables, corn, grown on their own 300 acres. Open from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. daily, February through November.
San Marcos Farms, 4950 Hollister Ave., Santa Barbara: Goleta Valley corn, vegetables and fruits in season, elephant garlic, honey, nuts. Open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, all year.
Tapia Bros., Hayvenhurst Avenue and Burbank Boulevard, Encino: Sweet corn grown in the Sepulveda Dam Basin, various fruits and vegetables in season, vine-ripened tomatoes. Open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m daily, May through November.
Friend's Ranches, 15150 Maricopa Highway, Ojai: Sweet corn, all citrus fruits. Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., all year.
Tee Pee Ranch, 29051 Robb Road, Lake Elsinore: Variety of vegetables and fruits in season. Open from 8 a.m. to sundown, all year except December 25.
Kayano Farms Inc., 15052 Brookhurst St., Westminster: Pearl white and yellow corn from Irvine, Maui onions, baby carrots, variety of fruits and vegetables. Open from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, closes at 3 p.m. on Sunday, February through mid-November.
Farmer's Bazaar, 245 7th Ave., San Diego: Some produce-house fruits and vegetables and many direct from farmers, including corn, pickling cucumbers, melons. Open from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily, all year.
Vargas Produce Stand, 10833 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Chatsworth: Fresh-picked vegetables in season, corn through November, variety of melons. Open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, June through November.
Farmer John's Fresh Produce, 15200 Rinaldi St., Mission Hills: Strawberries through July, vine-ripened tomatoes, corn from June 15 picked daily through Thanksgiving. Open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, April through December 1.
Tom T. Ishibashi Farm, 24955 Crenshaw Blvd., Torrance: Sweet corn, usually sold by noon, grown adjacent to stand on Municipal Airport grounds; some squash, green beans. Open March through October, strawberries early major crop.