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The subtleties of judging corn

Posted on September 3, 2015 by Vauxhall Advance

By Greg Price
Vauxhall Advance

It has now been a little more than a handful times I have been asked to judge corn at Taber’s annual Cornfest celebrations.

Sitting around the table of corn judges for 2015, I saw the likes of a former professional boxer who has made an appearance at the Playboy Mansion, Taber Mayor Henk DeVlieger, and Taber Police Chief Alf Rudd among other well know and respected members of the community in their field.

It sort of gave off the vibe for me being surrounded by such luminaries that I was definitely the B-lister, straight-to-video judge on the panel.

Nevertheless, my taste buds were chosen along with the rest of the group to crown the Corn king for 2015.

While all in good fun, the title does have its perks, as growers who earn the top rating have reported in the past they have seen a noticeable spike in sales for a couple weeks after Cornfest.

So without further ado, here are some of my insights and tips on the process for readers are perhaps future judges who may be new to the process:

SMALL TALK: First rule of Cornfest corn judging… don’t talk about corn judging. Oh wait, that’s Fight Club. Part of the fun of corn judging is the camaraderie among the judges. There wa s a radio personality that was new to the process and was taken back with how much organizers cared about judges’ mouth health by supplying dental floss, joking around a dislodged kernel may have the event suffering some collateral damage by the kernel propelling itself to an unsuspecting spectator. There was the razzing of organizers if we were supplied a smaller cob of corn compared to other fellow judges and, of course, the declarations that judges can have their votes swayed with a few extra few cobs on the side from a grower (which is of course impossible with a blind taste test). It’s the time of back and forth along with the colour commentary of MC Wild Bill Lawson that makes the event so enjoyable to volunteer for.

SAFETY FIRST: Speaking of corn judging safety, some extra liability insurance may have to to be taken out with the hazards the event presents. I learned that the hard way the first time I corn judged when I took a bite down on an extra juicy cob of corn. The juice squirted out and hit the judge right beside me in her face.

Visibly annoyed at what I did all I could do was just shrug and declare… ”damn, this is pretty tasty corn.”

Given the splash radius Taber corn is capable of, it is a good idea for the judges to space the judges’ chairs with enough distance from each other to mitigate such future possibilities.

FIRST IS WORST: Each cob of corn from each grower who is allowed to submit two different varieties is assigned a random letter for identification, making for a blind taste test.

Unfortunately for whatever grower is randomly picked first in the taste test, their entry’s chances of being crowned Corn King has likely a jester of a chance.

Short of it being a taste explosion of the sweetest corn a human being has ever consumed, judge scores are likely to be moderate.

Much like Olympic Figure Skating judges, it’s hard to give something a numerical value when you have nothing to compare it to with it going first.
What if you give it extremely high scores and then find future offerings to be even better? Scoresheets at that point have already been handed in and you can’t change it.

Human nature calls for those first scores to be conservative….it’s just psychology and unfortunate for the first cobs that are randomly chosen to be judged. I imagine it’s the same for the chili judges as well.

SNEAK A PEEK: Yes I admit, I sneak a peek at the other judge’s scoresheets and cobs, but for accurate scoring reasons. One of the categories is appearance, and I do not think it can be judged by one cob alone. Perhaps the cob suffered a little wear and tear in the transportation process to the judge’s table and so I want to look at other cobs as well for symmetry and overall esthetics. beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I want be holding several cobbs from the grower to gauge that beauty.

But as I learned from a previous corn judging years ago, don’t be too cutesy in your appearance judging. I jokingly held up a cobb one year and gave The Thinker pose looking at the cob of corn, only to have former Taber Times editor Dave Husdal snap the picture and put it in the following year’s Cornfest supplement.

AN ACQUIRED TASTE: I don’t think I’d ever get to the jerk level of Chef Gordon Ramsay, yelling at organizers saying certain corn entries are “as tasteless as Miley Cyrus,” but I have seemed to have found corn that ti prefer. On average, the lighter the corn kernel of corn on the cobb comparatively, the sweeter I find it. Each person has their own preference and no one is better than another.

TAPPED OUT: As fun as I find the Rogers Sugar/Lantic Inc Corn Tasting Competition, let’s just say I’m not craving corn that night for supper – or the following week for that matter.

Chowing down on double-digit cobs of corn tends to lessen one’s appreciation for the crop Cornfest is known and celebrated for. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing to truly appreciate it.

ALL THINGS RELATIVE: While it may be the politically correct thing to say, every grower is a winner at the Cornfest corn tasting competition. Truth be told, even the worst tasting, least tender cobb out there is still better than 90 per cent of corn sold throughout North America.

There’s a reason there is an actual certificate that is needed to sell Taber corn, to assure it comes from the area.

I always get a chuckle in my travels when I come across a stand in the United States which is selling ‘Tabor Corn.”

Be it the soil, growing conditions, or farmer’s methods, Taber is literally second-to-none when it comes to corn.

Be proud Taber growers, whether you were crowned Corn King in 2015 or not, you are still Aces in my book.

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