Kernels for Kids

By Aimee Bissell, CommonGround Iowa

A Family Affair

Like many other farm families, the Bissell family from Southwest Iowa has been offering their sweet corn crop to others for years. In 2021, Bedford Community School asked if the Bissells would be interested in sharing some of their locally grown sweet corn with the school. They agreed without hesitation, and July 2023 marked the third year of the Bissells providing more than 5,500 ears of sweet corn to the kids.

Opportunity for All

This opportunity is not unique to the Bedford community. In December 2020, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig awarded 198 grants to schools and local farmers to help serve students more Iowa-grown produce and protein. If you’re interested in a program like this, contact your local school or the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.

From Sowing to Storing

When growing and harvesting crops, you learn lessons in the field like a kid would in a classroom. The soil needs the right amount of nutrients, similar to how children need vitamins. As crops grow, they need to stay healthy, not unlike a growing child.

It’s important to know the correct times to plant and harvest sweet corn to achieve a kernel perfect in size and flavor; three months from seed to stalk is ideal. The next step is food preparation. The secret to keeping corn sweet is boiling it for only three minutes. Any longer and the corn sugars will turn into starches, resulting in a flavor far less sweet. The final step is storage. If corn is not grown, prepared, and sealed or stored properly, you could be unhappy with the results.

Photo Credits: Aimee Bissell

Freezing Sweet Corn

Try this recipe and method from blogger Kelsey Byrnes at Dance Around the Kitchen to enjoy sweet corn year-round.

  • Use a serrated knife to cut the corn off the cob.
  • To a large pot, add 10 cups* corn, water, salt and sugar.
  • Set the pot over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Let the mixture boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Pour the corn into a large shallow pan to cool.
  • Once cool, scoop into labeled freezer bags, remove excess air and freeze.
  • When ready to enjoy, thaw a bag of corn in the fridge (or microwave), then simmer until hot. You can add 1-2 tablespoons of butter, black pepper, and additional salt if you'd like.

*NOTE:  This recipe can easily be halved, doubled or tripled, depending on how much corn you have and how large your saucepan is.

  • Half Recipe:  5 cups corn, 1 cup water, ½ tablespoon salt, ½ tablespoon sugar
  • Doubled Recipe:  20 cups corn, 4 cups water, 2 tablespoon salt, 2 tablespoon sugar
  • Triple Recipe:  30 cups corn, 6 cups water, 3 tablespoon salt, 3 tablespoon sugar

Savory Reward Recipes

Here are two versions of corn casserole for your enjoyment. If you have prepared your own corn, feel free to replace the canned corn.

Traditional Sweet Corn Casserole

  • 1 can (14.75 ounces) cream-style corn
  • 1 can (15.25 ounces) sweet corn (drained)
  • 1 box corn muffin mix
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg

Mix ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.
Pour into a greased casserole baking dish.
Bake at 375 degrees F for approximately 35-45 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

Cheesy Sweet Corn Mac and Cheese

  • 1 can (14.75 ounces) cream-style corn
  • 1 can (15.25 ounces) sweet corn (undrained)
  • 1 cup small seashell pasta
  • ½ cup butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) cubed Velveeta

Cook pasta according to package directions.
Drain pasta and return to the stovetop.
Add cream-style corn, sweet corn, butter and Velveeta.
Cook and stir on stovetop until all Velveeta has melted.