Kansas corn field inspires local chef

07/01/2014 1:17 PM

Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, “Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field.”

I was thinking this last week while driving from Kansas City on Highway 10 to Lawrence to visit my friends Lowell Neitzel and Lyle Nunemaker of Bismarck Garden & Farm.

I was thinking corn because that is the main crop on the farm and I was getting a preview of the 2014 crop.

I arrived at the farm where I was greeted by the boys. There I was adorned in my pressed blue jeans and freshly starched shirt as I shook the boys’ hands I could feel a hard days work. City slicker meets farm boy.

Neitzel put me in his mini tractor and took me to a corn field, stopping at different rows and meticulously explaining each type of corn, some Temptation, some Honey Select.

He harvested a piece of Temptation, shucked it and explained that it needed about 10 days before they would harvest and sell it at their fruit and vegetable stand on the farm.

He also told me the sugar in sweet corn turns to starch soon after picking, so make sure the corn stays cold to slow this process. Now that’s a good tip.

Neitzel and his brother-in-law Nunemaker harvest an average 7,000 ears of corn each year, depending on Mother Nature. They have a one-row picker that they use on some of the farm, but the majority is done with a huge tractor.

After harvesting, they bring the corn to their own stand and also the Lawrence Farmer’s Market.

They said while some purchase it by the bushel, the corn is usually bought by a farmer’s dozen for $6. We then toured the garden where string beans, beets, potatoes, squash, tomatoes and onions were plentiful and also just about ready for harvest. This also will be sold at the stand beginning this week.

Neitzel brought me into the vegetable stand and gave me a little history of the family farm that was started after his wife’s grandfather, Gene Nunemaker, came back from World War II.

Today, many members of the family are involved and in the summer. Days are long and nights are short. That’s a good thing, Neitzel explained. He wants to stay busy. He loves the farm — it’s all he knows and wouldn’t want it any other way. Great words of a true Kansas farmer.

We said our goodbyes and I promised to return with my Slow Food Kansas City members on July 12. Neitzel will be cooking our group some local hamburgers produced from his family’s ranch and of course some of that delicious Kansas corn. Wow … talk about local.

I went to my car and slowly drove out of the graveled driveway. I took some pictures to show off to friends and as I drove home, I had some time to think about life on a farm, how happy these people are and how much food they provide for our table.

The life of a farmer is not easy. It’s not all a pot of gold and it requires a lot of patience and hard labor. I also began to think about all the recipes I want to develop this summer using Bismarck corn.

President Eisenhower was correct, it may look easy when your a thousand miles away from the corn field. I witnessed this first hand and to be honest, I can’t wait to go back. I hope you will join me.

Slow Food Kansas City Presents A Taste of the Farm

Join Slow Food Kansas City for a tour of Bismarck Farms. Farmer Lowell Neitzel will talk corn and guide us through his family history. Neitzel’s family has been in business since 1982 on the farm outside of Lawrence. The family also owns a ranch that provides 10 to 15 percent of the meat for Bichelmeyer Meats in Kansas City, Kan. Now that’s local.

We’ll have a picnic on the farm with local hamburger provided by Bichelmeyer Meats, fresh corn on the cob slathered with butter and homemade farm-style pie along with fresh lemonade or iced tea.

You will receive a farmer’s dozen (13) ears of corn to take home. You can also shop at the family fruit stand on the farm which has many homegrown items such as tomatoes, squash, onions and more.

Bismarck Farm and Gardens is located at 1616 N. 1700 Road near Lawrence. Its website is at http://bismarckgardens.com/ and its telephone number is 785-727-5512.

Only online reservations are being accepted.

I called up my friend Jim Cattey from Smoke ’n’ Fire in Overland Park and asked for a grilled corn recipe I had enjoyed with him recently. He sent me the recipe via email in five minutes. I hope you enjoy as much as I did and I hope to see you at the corn farm on July 12.

Remember, support your local farmer, that’s what it’s all about isn’t it?

Smoke ’n’ Fire Grilled Farm Fresh Sweet Corn

6-12 ears of fresh picked sweet corn

3-6 tablespoons of grape seed oil

Seasoned butter

Husk the corn and remove as much silk as possible, then use a silk removing brush under running water to finish removing the silk. Set aside to soak in cold water for 20 minutes. After the 20 minutes, place the corn in a freezer bag. Or if there is any extras, in a vacuum seal bag for later use.

Just prior to grilling, oil the ears of corn lightly with grape seed oil. Place ears of corn onto the grill on medium high heat until lightly browned. The grill is hot enough if you can hold your hand there for four to six seconds.

Turn or roll the corn so that you can brown it all around. Pull the corn and leave whole or cut into smaller pieces with a large chef’s knife. Place the corn into a serving bowl. Cover and set aside until ready to serve. Finish with the Jim Cattey’s Seasoned Butter at table side.

Jim Cattey’s Seasoned Butter

1-1/2 pound unsalted butter

1 tablespoon of Urban Accents Mesa Rosa Chipotle Rub

1 tablespoon of Smoke ’n’ Fire Seasoned Pepper

Mix all ingredients and melt on a smoker rack and catch in an oven safe dish to infuse a natural smoke flavor. slather on corn and serve.

Chef Jasper J. Mirabile Jr. of Jasper’s commands the helm of his family’s 59-year-old restaurant, consistently rated one of Kansas City’s best Italian restaurants. In addition to running the restaurant with his brother, Mirabile is a culinary instructor, founding member of Slow Food Kansas City and a national board member of the American Institute of Wine and Food. He hosts many famous chefs on his weekly radio show Live! From Jasper’s Kitchen on KCMO 710 AM and 103.7 FM and sells a line of dressings and sauces.

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