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Corn lovers get an earful at Frazier's

Here is exactly what Cecil Nickels, 80, said (very rapidly) when asked about Walter and Lena Frazier's Silver Queen corn. "Boy it's good, yeah it's good, boy it's good, yeah they got good corn, only corn I eat." (He takes a breath, skidding into the climax of his pronouncement:) "It's the best."

Ron Johnson drives his blue Mercedes out to the Frazier farm every other day during the short harvest season.

"I can eat eight ears a night," he says with no exaggeration. "You have to get your fill when it's in season."

Walter and Lena Frazier do understand why their customers arrive in droves during the harvest season, turning off U.S. 98 in Brooksville and onto a pastoral dirt road that leads to their 15-acre farm.

"Freshness," says Walter Frazier. "Fresh, fresh, fresh."

"That's what makes it so sweet."

You can eat the Fraziers' corn straight off the stalk. Or you can, as Mrs. Frazier suggests, put it in the microwave for two minutes per ear. If you freeze it, be sure to blanche or pre-cook it first, says Mrs. Frazier's typewritten instruction sheet, which is available to all customers. "Blanching," she writes, "inactivates the spoiling that causes enzymes."

The Fraziers run a classy corn operation.

During season, which ends next week, a truckload of fresh-picked corn is dumped into a pile beneath the tin-roofed shed about once every hour.

"Please do not shuck the corn," a hand-lettered sign in front of the corn stand reads. "It leaves an undesirable appearance and also dries it out."

The Fraziers met in Tifton, Ga., when she was a senior in high school and he was a student at the local agricultural college. After graduation, Frazier joined the Florida Department of Agriculture and became an inspector.

They moved to Brooksville in 1952.

"Watermelon, tomatoes, peanuts, citrus, eggs," Mrs. Frazier said, listing the many foods he has inspected. He later became supervisor of food inspection for an area of Florida stretching from north Miami to Inverness.

When Frazier decided to start planting corn in his field off Manecke Road in the late 1970s, he went to the nation's corn belt and talked with the nation's best corn farmers for advice.

"I never had a failure on a corn crop. Never. And I never changed anything they said. They told me right."

The secret? "There are no secrets," Frazier said. Fertilizer, spray to keep the worms out, water and tender loving care.

A corn survey in an agricultural magazine convinced him to choose Silver Queen, a sweet white corn.

"Silver Queen was number one. And off to the side was a little note that said "Nothing Close."

"I've never planted anything but. You change and they'll hang you from one of those oak trees over there," he said, quite seriously.

The corn is so popular that most people just call it Frazier corn.

"I don't know why," Mrs. Frazier said. "It's not our brand."

Unlike stay-sweet varieties sold in most supermarkets, Silver Queen begins to lose its sweetness as soon as it's picked, the natural sugar changing to a tasteless starch within days.

Most of the corn sold _ at $2 a dozen, $8 a bushel _ is either frozen or eaten within a day.

Frazier retired from the Agriculture Department in 1988 after 38 years, although he'd begun planting his cornfields 10 years before that as a hedge against the boredom of retirement.

"I'm begging for him to quit, but when spring comes he just comes alive," Mrs. Frazier said. "He's just got to turn the soil."

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