sweet edible sunshine – the end of a season

21 Sep

The school year is in full swing. It always feels like such a milestone, each new school year. It doesn’t matter if your child is going into kindergarten, second grade or tenth, the anticipation and excitement and promise of an abundance of good things to come is in the air. At Butter Beans this month, we have been highlighting corn, a late summer favorite on our menu. Cooking classes have begun, we’ve made hummus, buttermilk biscuits and balsamic vinaigrette. This week we learn to make leek fritters with tzatziki sauce – a new dish on our menu this season. Recipes, photographs and reflections to come.

For now, just before autumn officially begins (this Friday!), a bit about corn:

Did you know?  Corn is a human invention! It does not grow in the wild and relies on human cultivation and care.

Corn is thought to have initially been cultivated and cross-bred by Native Americans in Mexico 5-8000 years ago with tesonite, an abundant wild grass. Although we typically think of corn as yellow, it comes in many varieties and colors like red, pink, white and blue.

 Why corn is great:

Corn is very versatile grain and full of nutrients that are great for us. It has lots of B vitamins that help the body turn our food (carbohydrates) into fuel (blood sugar – glucose) that gives us energy. B vitamins also help our nervous system work smoothly and are important for our brain. Corn has a good amount of phosphorus and manganese -minerals that are great for our bones, fiber that is great for digestion and vitamin C that help keep our immune system strong.

Corn grows on every continent of the word, except for Antarctica.  Sweet corn is a warm-season grain that grows in every rural county in New York.

Corn has traditionally been planted alongside beans and squash, together known as the “three sisters” because of how well they complement each other in the garden and on our plates. Corn stalks provide a great pole for bean vines to climb and help to anchor corn to the ground. Beans add vital nitrogen to the roots, ensuring good growing soil for years to come. Squash vines work as a living mulch, maintaining moisture and keeping weeds at bay.

Eat corn on the cob, in corn bread, as corn tortillas, polenta, and popcorn. It is abundant in the summer, when farmers freeze extra kernels so we can enjoy corn all year-long. Corn is one of the few foods that is also turned into sugar (known as fructose or corn syrup), grown to feed farm animals and even grown to make bio-fuel an alternative to oil for cars and industries.

How to pick great ears?

You want a firm ear with silks that are not withered. It’s really that simple. If you happen to open an ear of corn and find that a caterpillar has eaten a few kernels, well, you know it’s a good one. Insects don’t eat bad corn.

References:

http://www.reneesgarden.com/articles/3sisters.html, http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=90, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maize

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