I don’t think there is another plant or vegetable that is more directly linked to American History than corn. It is on the Great Seal of the state of Iowa and is the Wisconsin state grain. The corn muffin is Massachusetts “state muffin” and it is of course in the emblem of the Future Farmers of America. Unless you were asleep in third grade you remember the drawings and stories about Columbus his “discovery” of corn that the Indians had long been growing as a staple.
Growing up in Pennsylvania, I can’t remember a single Fourth of July without corn on the cob roasted or boiled, smothered in butter and lots of salt and pepper. Phrases like “Knee high by July,” were commonly tossed around, and it’s no wonder since corn is grown in every county in the state.
The history of corn is ancient and naturally follows the evolution of mankind and civilization itself. So how is it that this iconic vegetable has gone out of favor?
It seems the problem is not with the corn itself, as much as how we have used and misused it. Admittedly calorie rich, corn is also dense in vitamins A, B, E and fiber. Its been proven to help prevent constipation, hemorrhoids, rectal cancer and Alzheimer’s. It is an amazing source of minerals, zinc, iron, phosphorus and selenium. According to Cornell University, it carries antioxidant properties that unlike some vegetables actually increase in effect with cooking! The ferulic acid it contains is an anti carcinogenic, effective in fighting breast and liver cancer.
While corn syrup, (hidden in many processed foods and beverages,) contributes to diabetes and obesity, whole corn can actually help control both diabetes and hypertension. The phytochemicals in corn kernels regulate the absorption and release of insulin, helping to reduce spikes and drops in blood sugar levels. For people concerned about genetically modified foods, there is even more good news. While most field corn is genetically modified, most sweet corn is not. Last year only 3 to 4% of the sweet corn grown in the U.S. was GMO. If you are concerned buy locally and ask. Or choose organic. GMO crops are forbidden under organic standards.
So, this year in keeping with our history as a people who throw off conventions that no longer fit our resolves, consider corn. As part of your holiday barbecue or family celebration it will pay you back in health benefits that slice of cake can never lay claim to.
To help you celebrate, here is a yummy recipe for Corn Confetti Slaw
Note: The recipe I first came upon for this dish included a can of rinsed black beans. It’s fine without them, but the heft and protein the beans provide make it a more complete, and I think satisfying side. If you don’t have a grill available you can substitute a small bag of frozen organic corn, lightly steamed and cooled. You can also substitute a tablespoon or so of sweet onion for the green onions if you don’t have them on hand. I add extra olive oil, and most recently used Margarita mix in place of the lime, – it was intoxicatingly good!