Eat Local! Corn
September 4, 2018
It just wouldn’t be September without decorative brightly colored ears of corn popping up everywhere, or getting that one last taste of sweet summer corn on the cob. Although corn has received a bad rap in recent years due to concerns over GMOs and claims about it being unhealthy in many popular diet and health books, this starchy vegetable has a rich history of bringing people together and can certainly be enjoyed in moderation.
Corn originated in the Americas thousands of years ago and was brought back to Europe by explorers in the 16th century. According to the Whole Grains Council, the Native American name for corn was “mahisi” or “that which sustains us.” Later, “mahisi” was changed to the name maize. Today, corn is the most widely grown crop in North America. According to the USDA, approximately 90% of domestic corn acres are produced with herbicide-tolerant GMO seeds. If this is a concern for you, opt for organic corn (which is banned from using GMO seeds) or non-GMO verified corn products.
Although there are many different varieties of corn, the three types we are perhaps most familiar with are sweet corn (or summer corn, often enjoyed as corn on the cob), field corn (which is used primarily for livestock feed and industrial products such as medicines, cosmetics, ethanol, high fructose corn syrup, corn oil, etc.), and flint corn, which is the decorative Indian corn with hard kernels that is usually associated with autumn and cornucopias at Thanksgiving. Most of the corn in the U.S. (field corn) is cultivated as animal feed.
You may have also tried hominy or polenta, which are other preparations of corn. Hominy is made by soaking flint corn in an alkaline solution to soften it up (usually lime water) and then eating as is or ground into grits. Polenta is cornmeal (ground corn) that is cooked and often eaten as porridge, but is also popular in many Italian dishes. Sweet corn is popular for grilling and eating along with a variety of dishes. One half cup of sweet corn provides 90 calories, 3 grams of protein, and 2 grams of fiber. Sweet corn is also a good source of B vitamins and potassium. There’s also research to show that corn is high in lutein and zeaxanthin, which are important precursors for vitamin A needed to maintain healthy vision.
Choose corn that is firm and in a tightly wrapped husk. It can be stored for up to a week in the fridge in its husk and should be soaked prior to cooking. Corn can be enjoyed in a variety of ways such as grilling, roasting, or boiling. It goes great in tacos with black beans, tossed into tortilla soup or creamy chowders, added to salads with flavors like cumin, chili powder, cilantro, or a squeeze of fresh lime, or as a side dish to grilled meat and seafood.
Total Time: 45 min Active Time: 15 min Yield: 10 to 12 servings
- 2 avocados, diced
- 1 medium jicama, finely diced
- 1 small red onion, finely diced
- 1 red bell pepper, finely diced
- 4 cups cooked corn (cut from about 4 ears)
- Two 15-ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 1/2 cup lime juice
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Combine the avocados, jicama, onion, bell pepper, corn, black beans, lime juice, cilantro, olive oil, cumin, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper in a medium bowl and adjust seasonings to taste. Chill at least 30 minutes and up to overnight before serving.
Recipe from the Food Network (https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/colorful-corn-salad-3266064)
Article by Natalie Colla, CDE, RDN, LDN. Natalie is a dietitian specializing in diabetes education and care. She maintains a food and health blog at www.plantasticeating.com.