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At the height of sweet corn season, Kearney vendors share their tips for the Nebraska treat
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At the height of sweet corn season, Kearney vendors share their tips for the Nebraska treat

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KEARNEY — It’s the middle of sweet corn season in Nebraska, and many locals have rushed to produce stands in Kearney seeking the freshest product.

Three long-time sweet corn producers — Janet and Marvion Reichert Jr. of rural Elm Creek; Tom, Linda and Danny Mercer of rural Gibbon; and Andrew Erickson of rural Funk — began selling their corn July 20, 21 and 14, respectively, in Kearney.

Erickson owns Andrew’s Market in Kearney.

Danny Mercer and Marvion Reichert said people often follow them into the Office Max and former Video Kingdom parking lots in Kearney, respectively, when customers see their trucks pull into town.

“Especially on Saturday, the first truck will get there at 9 a.m. and some days we’re sold out by 10:30 a.m.,” Reichert said.

The Mercers, Reichert and Erickson shared some of their secrets that keep their customers coming back every year for more.

All businesses pick their corn daily and in the morning hours when the fields and ears of corn are cool. They said keeping the ears cool helps lock in the freshness.

Here are other ways they keep their corn fresh and tasting good:

Mercer Sweet Corn

Owners: Tom and Linda Mercer, and son Danny Mercer, of rural Gibbon.

Years of operation: 37.

Where they sell: Office Max at 4920 Third Ave.

Hours of operation: Daily between 9:30-10 a.m. until they sell out. They expect to sell corn for the next two weeks.

How do you keep your corn fresh?

Tom said they water down their corn with cold well water before trucking it into town to sell for the day. Danny said they keep a sheet on it throughout the day under a tent to keep it cool.

“Stick your hand in there. It’s still cold,” he said. “You can tell if it’s fresh or not.”

The Mercers also don’t sell corn a day later if they don’t sell it all the first day.

“We don’t hold it,” he said. “Absolutely not.”

What type of corn do you grow and sell?

Danny and Tom are the only people who know the answer to this question. Danny said his dad even burns the bags so that their secret isn’t known.

“It is a high secret. My mom doesn’t even know,” Danny said.

They have grown this type of corn for 10 years since Danny found out about it. He said it’s the best because the size is right, it’s easy to pick, it’s tender and the kernels don’t get stuck in your teeth. The white and yellow blend of kernels also makes for the right level of sweetness.

What are your tips for keeping corn fresh at home?

Tom and Danny said the corn will last for five to seven days in the refrigerator, but the corn is sweeter the earlier customers eat it.

“Once it’s picked, it’s not getting any more mature. It’s gone down hill,” Danny said.

Reichert’s Sweet Corn

Owners: Marvion and Janet Reichert of rural Elm Creek.

Years of operation: 30.

Where they sell in Kearney: The former Video Kingdom parking lot at 3915 Second Ave.

Hours of operation: About 9:30 a.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. weekends until they sell out. They expect to sell corn for the next seven to 10 days.

How do you keep your corn fresh?

Marvion said his family has always picked their corn fresh daily. Because they sell multiple truck loads of corn a day, he puts a pickup bed load in his Quonset to keep it cool. When the first load sells out in the morning, he or an employee drives 15 minutes to Kearney to replenish it.

“That’s the thing about picking in the morning when there’s no field heat in it. It can set in the Quonset until they bring it down, and when they sack the last out of it, the bed is still cool,” Marvion said.

The Reicherts also put a tent over their truck beds in the parking lot to keep the corn shaded and cool.

The Reicherts may sell corn the next day, but only after flashing it with cool water and keeping it in their Quonset overnight. Often though, Marvion said they give the ears away to the food pantry or other nonprofits at the end of the day.

He said he is appreciative of the people who work for him to sell a high quality product.

“It’s not an easy job or fun job, but they’re there every day for us,” he said.

What type of corn do you grow and sell?

Marvion said his family grows several varieties of corn, which includes white, yellow and bi-color, also known as peaches and cream, types.

“So it works out that we can satisfy everyone’s taste,” he said.

What are your tips for keeping corn fresh at home?

Marvion said people often ask about how to ship corn to other states. He tells them to put their ears in a box or cooler with a little bit of ice on it.

“We’ve had corn go to Georgia, Washington, D.C., San Antonio, Texas, California, all over. And it always arrives in good shape,” he said.

Andrew’s Garden

Owner: Andrew Erickson of rural Funk.

Years of operation: Three at a brick and mortar business, more than 20 overall.

Where he sells in Kearney: Andrew’s Garden at 4623 Second Ave.

Hours of operation: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sundays. He expects to sell corn through the middle of September.

How do you keep your corn fresh?

Erickson sets up a trailer load of corn outside his business every day with a tent over the top. He said he tries to bag it quickly and get it inside the business where it is cool.

What type of corn do you grow and sell?

Erickson also wouldn’t share the exact hybrid of sweet corn that he grows.

“It’s kind of a trade secret,” he said.

But Erickson shared that he grows three or four varieties. Most people, he said, want to buy the bi-color, also known as peaches and cream.

What are your tips for keeping corn fresh at home?

“Refrigerate it,” Erickson quickly answered.

He said leaving the corn at room temperature is people’s biggest misconception about how to store sweet corn. The colder the corn, he said, the better, because it helps keep the starches in it.

To also keep the sugars in the corn, Erickson suggested, “Leave it in the husk until you can use it because the husk keeps ... the sugars in.”

erika.pritchard@kearneyhub.com

@erikadpritchard

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