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The first great pleasure of summer is savoring the unbeatable taste of homegrown tomatoes. The second is sinking our teeth into local corn.

Unfortunately, unscrupulous vendors are ready to pounce on our weaknesses--especially when it comes to corn.

Huge "LOCAL CORN" signs spring up at roadside stands and at half-ton trucks parked in vacant lots along roads. You can hardly wait to get these sweet delights into the boiling pot--especially if it's your first corn feast of the season.

But, beware! You may be buying corn that is from far south and has spent many days on a truck losing its flavor. The taste will be bland compared to true local corn. And the only thing "local" about it is the fact that you're just another "local" person to be taken advantage of.

A couple years ago, I was so disappointed with the flavor of so-called "local" corn, I went back to the roadside stand and challenged them to tell me exactly where--locally--the corn came from. When they gave me a vague reply, I pulled a $50 bill out of my pocket and offered it to them if they could be specific. You guessed it: they simply went into a huff and told me I was trying to cause trouble.

Needless to say, I've never been back to that stand and get upset whenever I pass it.

How can you tell when someone is guilty of this false advertising? The best test is examining the corn carefully before you buy it. Local corn often has long stems still attached (even five or six inches of stem) but corn shipped from far afield usually has stems cut closer to the cob to save space during shipping.

Ask the vendor where exactly the corn comes from. Be especially careful of the first corn offering of the season. That's when the bogus corn operators usually swing into action: charging a premium price for so-called "local" corn that really has been sitting on a truck and in storage for a week or two.

Buy one cob and take a bite on the spot. If the juice squirts into your mouth and it's sweet and tender, then it's likely fresh-picked locally.

Although some varieties of corn have been genetically altered to hold a sweet taste as long as two weeks, all corn loses flavor as soon as it is picked--up to half its flavor in the first 12 hours!

Maybe someone should go into the corn-delivery business, similar to pizza. Corn freshly-picked and delivered to you within 30 minutes, to be plunged into water which is already boiling on the stove.

Hmmm--mm! Enjoy! And don't fall prey to the "local" corn teasers.

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