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Friday, November 7, 2014

Corn

Corn:

About:

Corn, also known as "maize" is a large grain plant domesticated by indigenous people of Mesoamerica in prehistoric times.  The leafy stalk produces ears which contain the grain, which are seeds called kernels and are protected with  silk-like threads called corn silk and encased in a husk.   Maize spread to the rest of the world because of its ability to grow in diverse climates.   Maize is the most widely grown grain crop in the Americas. 

History:

The first domestication of maize in Mesoamerica dates back to 9000 - 8000 BC.  The first corn plants only grew small, one inch long and only one per plant, but artificial selection by the indigenous people of the Americas made it to grow several cobs per plant, and usually several inches long each time.  Today corn grows to about 7 - 10 feet in height.  Each plant bears 2 - 6 long husked ears. 

Sugar-rich varieties called "sweet corn" are usually grown for human consumption as kernels .  White field corn varieties are used for animal feed, various corn based human food uses including grinding into corn meal or masa, pressing into corn oil, and fermentation and distillation into alcoholic beverages (bourbon and whiskey) and as chemical feedstock.  

Nutrition:

Maize and corn meal (ground, dried maize) constitute a staple food in many regions of the world.   At 86 calories per 100 g. sugar corn kernels are moderately high in calories compared to other vegetables.  Corn has a high-quality phyto-nutrition profile consisting of dietary fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants.  It also has moderate proportions of minerals.  Corn is a high glycemic index food item limiting its benefits to diabetics.   Corn is a good source of phenolic flavonoid antioxidant ferulic acid which may play a vital role in preventing  cancers, aging, and inflammation in humans.  Corn contains good levels if some valuable B-complex group vitamins such as thiamin, niacin, pantothenic acid, folates, riboflavin, and pyridoxine.  Corn contains  healthy amounts of some important minerals such as zinc, magnesium, copper, iron, and manganese.  Sweet corn is a gluten free food. 

Health Benefits:

You can get health supportive antioxidant benefits from all varieties of corn.   Some phytonutrients in corn may be able to inhibit angiotensin-1 converting enzyme (ACE) and help lower risk of high blood pressure.  The fiber contained in corn helps support the growth of friendly bacteria in the intestines and helps reduce the risk of intestinal problems including colon cancer.   The good fiber content in corn has the ability to provide many B-complex vitamins and its notable protein content would be expected to provide blood sugar benefits.  Consumption of corn in ordinary amounts of 1 - 2 cups has been shown to be associated with better sugar control in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. 

Varieties:

Corn is available in the market in three color: Yellow, white, and bi-color, which is yellow and white in one ear.  People have their preferences but it is generally said that white is the sweetest.  Actually, the color of corn has little to do with its sweetness.  The main thing is how long it has been off the stalk.  If you can get it from a farm stand, that's your best bet.  The best season for sweet corn is middle to late summer. 


My Story:

In the supermarket we sold  the corn both loose and  packaged.   When we had it loose, I would use my trick I've mentioned before to use a bunch of parsley to sprinkle the loose corn with water to try to keep it from drying out too fast.  Packaging corn was a different story. Packaging corn is labor intensive.  First you have to cut down the husk and then on the top layer of the package we would strip away enough of the husk to expose 2 rows of kernels.  The putting of the corn into a package and wrapping the package was another separate operation.  So, during a sale it was a rush to get the corn ready.  One time to my surprise I found a dead snake in a crate of corn. It was thin and about 12 - 15 inches long.   It never moved so it didn't scare me, but it was unusual and a story to tell.

Selecting & Storing:

Select fresh looking, well formed ears that are firm with light green color and a tight husk. If you push your thumb into a kernel, it should spray out at you.  Once at home use as soon as possible.  Keep inside the refrigerator with husks still on to maintain flavor, taste, and moisture.  If necessary you can keep up to 2 or 3 days. 

Preparing:

To shuck the corn take the ear and with your thumb and forefinger separate about one third of the tassel and pull it with the shuck straight down to the base of the ear.  This will remove the shuck and the silk in one operation.  Do the other two thirds to finish the ear.  To boil the corn bring the water to a boil and drop in the shucked ears.  Bring the water back to a boil and boil for 3 - 4 minutes.  No longer! Overcooking will make the corn tough.  You can break the ears by hand to make them smaller but do not use a knife,.  A knife tends to crush the kernels.  

Using:

  • Farm fresh raw milky sweet corn can be eaten as It is without cooking
  • The whole corncob may be grilled and served with salt and pepper
  • The whole corn cob may be steamed or boiled in salt water and served with butter or oil
  • Boiled kernels are an excellent accompaniment in salads, pizza, pasta, risotto, stews, omelets and fried rice.
  • Sweet corn soup and chowder are favorite starters in almost all corners of the world
So, eat up. Enjoy! I'll show you how.......................

Simple but Good:                                           

Corn Fritters: 

1 cup grated fresh corn
1 egg, beaten 
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
pinch of freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp dried basil
1/4 cup unsalted butter or shortening 
confectioner's sugar for sprinkling

In a bowl thoroughly mix the corn, beaten egg, salt, sugar, pepper, flour and basil.

In a large skillet melt butter or shortening.  Drop the corn mixture by tablespoonfuls into the hot butter.  Fry on each side until golden brown.  Remove from skillet and sprinkle with confectioner's sugar.  Serve warm. 






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