Corn- Do you know how to pick it?

Corn- Do you know how to pick it?

Corn is one of the coveted farmer’s market finds in my house.  We wait all summer for local corn to finally show up, and when it does, we devour it!  Corn is actually not a vegetable, it’s a grain.  But it’s kernels are so sweet and delicious and it offers such a good boost of nutrition that many of us consider it alongside our vegetables.

Corn is kind of a touchy subject.  It tends to be one of the most genetically modified foods on the market today.  Buying organic offers better assurance of non GMO products, so this should be step number 1.  In addition to being heavily modified, it is quickly becoming one of the top allergens for food sensitive people.  Some of this has to do with the exposure to sprays and chemicals, and some of it to genetic modification.  But corn is harvested and then milled, and then sometimes, it waits.  If the corn is not properly milled and stored, it tends to mildew and is vulnerable to mold growth.  Fungus spores grow with the corn and find their way in to the final product.  This also increases the sensitivity to corn, or rather the unknown and unintended additional microorganisms that come with eating corn.  On top of this, corn shows up in just about everything!  You may not see the word corn on the label, but it appears as so many other ingredients that it is absolutely mind blowing- maltodextrin, ascorbic acid, baking powder, lactic acid, dextrose… and the list goes on.

(If you are interested, here is an updated list of food ingredients that contain corn:  )

This overuse of corn is a constant barrage of corn exposure to our system, and like wheat and sugar, too much is proving to be toxic to our system.  So keeping corn products to a minimum would be ideal to reduce overexposure to corn, exposure to microorganisms, and pesticides or GMO substances.

But when you go to the farmer’s markets, you have a chance to get directly to the source.  Ask your farmer what their seeds’ heritage is.  Heirloom and organic, non GMO are best.  Ask them about their growing practices.  Do they spray?  If so, what do they use?  Often corn husks are thick and protective enough that spraying is minimal.  But ask.  Ask about their fertilizing and feeding techniques, too.

Now that you’ve done this, let’s talk about how to pick your corn.  Did you know there is corn etiquette?  It’s true, there’s a right way and wrong way!  Whether at the store or the stand, pick up a couple of ears of corn you’re interested in.  How does it feel?  Is it heavy or light?  It should be nice and heavy- this is an indicator of water content and freshness.  Light colored corn is often dried and old.

Next, inspect the husk.  The leaves should be bright and green, and fresh.  Again, dried out and yellowed is a bad sign.  If the leaves look ok, inspect the silks.  They should be light and fresh, just like the husks.  Darkened, dried out or soggy is not ideal.  Fresh ears of corn have fresh silks too!

Notice I have not yet mentioned opening the husks!  Resist the temptation!  This is where we get to the wrong part… opening the husks dries out the corn, whether for you or the next person, should you decide that ear was not up to par.  So don’t do it!  Dehusking the corn is also not acceptable.  The ears keep the corn fresh and the nutrients intact.  Save the removal of the husks until you are ready to cook.  The visual cues are all you need.  Trust your guides, and you’ll soon find that’s all you need.

As for cooking, you can eat these babies raw or steamed, but when they are fresh they need very light cooking.  My preference is to steam for just a few minutes, then remove and enjoy- no topping necessary!

How about you?  What are your favorite ways to eat corn?

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