Corn is a delicious summertime vegetable that pairs well with hamburgers, steaks, and chicken. Whether you like it grilled, boiled, or popped, this vegetable is popular throughout the world. It has a sweeter taste by nature, which means it’s popular with sweet lovers. Corn on the cob at a summer barbeque or playing corn hole in the yard with friends all turn into positive memories for everyone! Oddly enough corn is considered a grass, and it is made up of a leafy stalk that grows kernels out of the ear. Sounds odd, but it truly does have parts of the plant that resemble human beings!
Most corn out in the United States today is simple field corn, but there are a variety of different types you can choose to consume aside from it. Field corn is a lot starchier than typical sweet corn, and it is fed to farm animals most of the time because it lacks flavor. When you think of cornfields, you typically think of the Midwestern part of the United States where you see miles of farmland. A large majority, if not all, of the farmland is privately owned and operated by small family businesses, which makes for some sentimental corn husking. When talking about health and wellness, corn is typically not on the list of vegetables to constantly consume, but it does contain vitamins and minerals as well as many antioxidants for better health and wellness.
Corn Fun Facts
- “There are about 90 million acres of land planted to corn in the U.S
- Most of the corn is grown in the Heartland of the U.S. (Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Kentucky, Ohio, Kansas, and Missouri).
- In its un-popped state, popcorn is nonperishable.
- For bourbon to be considered bourbon, at least 51% of it has to be made out of corn.
- According to the USDA, one acre of corn removes about 8 tons of carbon dioxide from the air in a growing season.”
- “The long threads on top of an ear of corn are called silks.
- A typical healthy corn plant is between 6-12 feet tall.
- Corn is an ingredient in over 3,000 grocery items.
- The only place in the world corn isn’t grown is Antarctica.”
Corn History/ Mythology
Little did the Native Americans know about the impact their finding would have on the entire world years later. At first it was just a large bland grass like product, but later it turned into an entire process for living. Corn has a longstanding history that will impress just about anyone looking into its overarching journey through time. Humans first cultivated and planted corn as it was not a plant native to the wild that was just stumbled upon and consumed. Without human cultivation there would be no supply of corn. Different scientists say that corn was first developed 7,000 years ago in Mexico and was cultivated by the Indians. It first was said to start in the form of what was called teosinte, a certain type of grass that looks much different than the corn stalks today. Even though it started in Mexico, it didn’t take long for this crop to make its way down to South America and further up into North America too. It became a staple food for many people back then, and still remains so today.
When Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas, he also discovered corn at the same time. The first Thanksgiving was held in 1621, and corn was one of the most popular items in the dinner due to it being a huge staple in the diets of the native people. At this time, Europeans still had not realized corn was a vegetable able to be eaten. The corn back in the early days did not look like your typical ear of sweet corn found in the grocery stores today. The kernels were much smaller, and they were spread apart which meant less corn on one ear.
In the Native American culture, corn is known as one of the three sisters, along with squash and beans. It is told in many different stories among this culture and remains an important food product even to this day and age. It was seen as good luck to have actual seed planting ceremonies to wish success over the new crop for the coming season. Along with planting ceremonies, there were also tasting ceremonies done at the end of the growing season to celebrate the food that would soon fill their bellies and be an important piece to their diets.
So how did the corn the Native Americans were consuming change into the corn we now know today? In the early 1930s, there was a student named George Beadle and he created a few different hybrids between teosinte and maize, which resulted in a mix of the two plants together. He was even able to get the kernels to “pop”, which we now associate as popcorn. He later won a Nobel Prize in 1958 for his genetic discovery, and was extremely invested in his work. George was born into a farming family, but he dedicated most of his time to science and discovery. According to the New York Times,
“He crossed maize and teosinte, then crossed the hybrids, and grew 50,000 plants. He obtained plants that resembled teosinte and maize at a frequency that indicated that just four or five genes controlled the major differences between the two plants.”
On a lighter note, there is a fun game called corn hole that many people play at parks and at get togethers among friends. The origin of the game is debatable because there are many different versions circulating around. Some people say the Native Americans started this game by throwing rocks at the ground. There is also word that the Blackhawk tribe in Illinois first came up with the game when they would fill dried pig bladders with beans and try and toss them inside. Another story circulates around the Germans by saying a man named Matthias Kuepermann was the start of the corn hole movement. There were two boys throwing rocks in a field, and he was worried someone would get hurt, so instead he gave them burlap sacks filled with corn that were surrounded by wooden boxes and pebbles to aim with. No matter what the origin, this fun filled game has been around since the early years of corn.
Corn Nutrition Facts
Corn has an interesting nutritional profile and it is one of the most popular and widely used foods in the world. It is the world’s most popular cereal grain, and it has vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Different well known foods containing corn are tortillas, polenta, cornmeal, corn syrup, corn oil, and a variety of cereals. This is just dusting the surface of how many food items actually contain corn today. Corn is largely made up of carbohydrates, which is why it is not a diet approved food for many people looking to lose weight or watch their caloric intake. The ratio of protein, carbohydrates, and fat is not well balanced. Starch makes up roughly 35-80% of corn’s weight depending on its size and kernel count.
Sweet corn has the highest sugar content, with the overall number being 28% straight sucralose per ear of corn. The glycemic index on corn has scored low though, as it does not shoot up your blood sugar quickly with a crash following. It also contains a substantial amount of fiber, which is why you typically feel fuller after consuming popcorn, corn on the cob, or even corn out of a can. For example, one small bag of popcorn from the movie theatres contains around 16-20 grams of fiber. When it comes to protein, corn is not a great food to get your protein source from, but it does contain some. The overall content of protein is under 10%, which isn’t much, but it still contains a small amount.
The vitamins present in corn on the cob, or sweet corn for that matter, is significant and worth noting. Folate and B6 are two of the prevalent vitamins present in an ear of corn, as well as potassium and niacin. Sweet corn is higher in actual vitamin content, while your traditional popcorn, preferably not out of a bag, is higher in minerals. Some minerals found in popcorn are manganese, phosphorus, zinc, copper, and magnesium, which all support healthy hearts and blood function. Whether you enjoy eating corn on the cob, corned beef, or even corn casserole, you are getting an adequate amount of nutrients.
Corn Health Benefits
Because the production of corn is so strong, it helps support growing populations and economies all over the world. Without corn, the world would experience a serious void in food items and in options for many different dishes. Corn is found in thousands of items across the grocery store, so can you imagine a world without it? Non-GMO whole corn is the most nutritious because of its vitamin C and magnesium content, and you will get the most health benefits out of it.
One ear of corn has around 123 calories, 5 grams of protein, 4 grams of fiber, and 2 grams of fat. There are around 27 grams of carbohydrates depending on the size of corn you picked out, which makes a large majority of this juicy food starch. Because it is high in antioxidants, this food is going to offer up a variety of health benefits long term. Carotenoid antioxidants are most abundantly found inside of each corn kernel, and they help to boost your immune system. Corn is also a slowly digestible carbohydrate, which means it does not raise blood sugar levels sky high after consuming it. It is also high in fiber yet low in overall calorie content, which makes your meal more filling.
Other health benefits include the fact that corn is a gluten free food, so people who suffer from celiac’s disease can also enjoy this carbohydrate just like everyone else. The downsides to consuming corn are when they contain GMO’s and are not organic, because they have a stronger probability of harboring harmful chemicals. There is also a threat for consuming high fructose corn syrup because it sends your insulin levels into overdrive, which can cause a variety of problems over time, like heart disease and diabetes if continued. It is always best to make sure you are purchasing the purest form of corn on the cob in an organic state to ensure your body only reaps the benefits, not the chemicals.
Corn is a very versatile food that can be made with a variety of dishes, and while there are not a lot of different varieties of corn (there are some) you won’t be bored with the amount of dishes you can make that incorporate corn in some form. Corned beef cabbage, corn casserole, corn on the cob, cornbread, and even cornstarch are just a few of the fun food items you can use that include corn. There are six different varieties of corn that are frequently used in many different food dishes today.
This is the most well known variety of corn today and it is either eaten straight off of the cob or is canned for optimal and convenient enjoyment. To boil corn on the cob, simply fill a large pot of water and let it boil before dropping each ear of corn in. Depending on the heat of the stove, you should wait at least 10 minutes before removing the ears from the boiling water. Sweet corn is the variety you will find at the grocery store, and it is harvested early to ensure the sugars in the kernels do not convert to starch, which is why it is sweet in flavor.
This is an all time favorite of American movie theatres nationwide, as well as of the people who come to the theatre. It is almost impossible to resist the urge to grab one of the tubs of buttery popcorn on your way into the theatre. Whether you enjoy it outside of or in your home, this variety of corn is surely a crowd favorite. Did you know that you can grow the plant that makes popcorn kernels right out of your own garden? This plant is called zea mays everta and it takes a special amount of care and knowledge as they are not harvested like sweet corn or other corn varieties are.
Do not confuse cornmeal with flour corn, because they are two different things entirely. Flour corn consists of soft kernels with a higher starch content, and they are typically used in baked goods and other mainstream food items. Jiffy corn mix for example is made with flour corn and it is delicious to say the least!
This is also known as field corn, and it is not a favorite to consume due to its lack of flavor. Many times dent corn will be fed to cattle and farm animals, as well as used in making corn oil and clean burning ethanol. Dent corn makes up 99% of corn production in the United States alone, so its need is high and there are more uses for it than regular sweet corn.
Flint corn is similar in taste and feel to dent corn, but it is not as popular in the United States. It is found mainly in Central and South America, and it too is primarily used to feed livestock and cattle.
This variety of corn is also referred to as Indian Corn and it is full of color and pizazz. It is not usually grown commercially, but rather for looks and ornamental purposes in today’s society.
The uses for corn go far beyond what we could ever imagine, and life without corn would be quite the disaster. There have been many different innovative minds that have contributed to using corn as a resource for various functions in today’s age. You might think corn is just food for summer barbeques with friends, but it goes so far beyond that with is ability to be mass produced and created into other products. There are some surprising uses for corn that might throw you for a loop, so get ready to be blown away!
Corn is used in penicillin by the use of corn steep liquor. Scientists realized that instead of throwing away the corn steep liquor, it could contribute substantially to the production of penicillin in large quantities. It is also used in the famous ingredient “corn starch”, which you have probably added when making homemade cookies. Cornstarch is also one of the main ingredients in biodegradable plastic, so its impact on our environment goes far beyond cookies in the oven.
Whiskey is made from corn, so the consumption of it should be largely accredited to the Native Americans who first gave corn its start back in the earlier days. There are legal Bourbon distilleries and there are also illegal moonshiners who make a very potent drink for people to enjoy. On the same note as alcohol, corn is also used in ethanol. Distilled alcohol from grain is called ethanol, and it is as a biodegradable source for fossil fuels. Another fun use for corn is in baby’s diapers, not the cloth ones of course. The main absorbent layer found in the bottom of a diaper is made from ethylene, which is a byproduct of corn. Crayons are also made from corn, so the kids really do benefit from corn just like adults do! Dextrin is made from a form of corn starch, which is the main ingredient found in most crayons today.
Aside from all of the industrial uses that make corn such a hot commodity throughout the world, there also is an overflow of delicious soups, breads, cakes, and casseroles that contain corn. Honey cornbread muffins go so well with any smoked barbeque meat, and they leave your stomach wanting more! Slather butter over the corn bread while it is hot out of the oven and you are in for a real treat! This simple honey cornbread recipe will not only wow your guests, but it will be a kitchen staple in the family for years to come.
Honey Corn Bread Muffins Recipe
- 1 cup yellow cornmeal
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 stick butter, melted
- 1/4 cup honey
- Special equipment: paper muffin cups and a 12-cup muffin tin
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Into a large bowl, mix the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. In another bowl, whisk together the whole milk, eggs, butter, and honey. Add the wet to the dry ingredients and stir until just mixed.
- Place muffin paper liners in a 12-cup muffin tin. Evenly divide the cornbread mixture into the papers. Bake for 15 minutes, until golden.