Often overlooked for its health properties, corn is a whole grain (that's right, corn isn't really a vegetable!) worth adding to your diet in the summer. Corn is a good source of folate, thiamin, potassium, and it also provides some fibre, vitamin C, niacin and zinc - all for less than 90 calories on an ear of corn (unbuttered!). (Add 70 calories for two teaspoons/10 ml of butter.)
Corn is also rich in beta-cryptoxanthin (a cousin of beta-carotene), an antioxidant also found in pumpkin, papaya and red bell peppers. Studies have linked high intakes of beta-cryptoxanthin to a lower incidence of lung cancer.
Nutrient information per one ear of corn, cooked (or 1/2 cup/125 ml):
|Vitamin C||4.8 mg|
Source: Canadian Nutrient File, 2007b
Also known as maize, corn was the main crop for North American natives, including the Mayas, Aztecs and Incas, for thousands of years. Today, corn remains one of the most abundant crops in North American. There are countless varieties of corn that differ not only in size, taste and texture, but also colour - from red, pink, black and blue. The most common varieties of corn include sweet, dent, and flint, as well as varieties grown for flour and popcorn.
Sweet corn, available with white or yellow kernels, is the variety most widely eaten. In Ontario, Canada three types of sweet corn are grown: normal, sugar enhanced and supersweet. While the sugar content of regular sweet corn varies between 9 and 16 percent, some of the sweeter types range from 14 to 44 percent.
As for Peaches and Cream corn, a favourite of many, this variety is often grown in backyard, small-scale gardens; it never made it to large-scale commercial production. Peaches and Cream corn is actually just a bi-colour variety of sweet corn - usually with white and yellow kernels on the same husk.
Whether you buy from a road side stand or your local grocery store, there are a few things to keep in mind when buying fresh corn. Fully ripe sweet corn has husks that are bright green and moist. The silk at the top of the husk should be a shiny, moist and have a golden colour. Peel back part of the husk to examine the kernels and choose a cob that has plump, soft yellow colour kernels - avoid any that are discoloured or shriveled. Kernels at the top of the cob should be small; large kernels are a sign of old corn.
Fresh corn is only available for a few short months during the year, but frozen and canned corn is available year round. Canned corn usually has added salt and sugar and amounts can vary widely from brand to brand. Some brands of canned corn deliver a whopping 470 mg of sodium per 1/2 cup serving, while low-sodium brands have as little as 120 mg per serving. Choose a brand that offers less sodium or opt for frozen corn, which doesn't have any added sodium.
Corn's natural sugars begin to convert to starch immediately after picking, which means the longer corn sits after picking, the less sweet it will taste. For maximum flavour and sweetness, corn should be eaten the same day it was picked. Alternatively, it can be stored in a cool, moist place, such as the refrigerator, for up to three days. Storing fresh corn in a cool place will help slow the breakdown of the sugars and help maintain its sweet taste. If you're traveling with fresh corn, store it in a cooler with plenty of ice.
There's no shortage of ways to prepare corn on the cob - whether it's baking, boiling, roasting, or grilling.
Boiling: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add husked corn and bring back to a boil. Cook for 4 minutes, remove from heat and serve warm. Do not add salt or sugar to the water, which will toughen the corn. Alternatively, drop the corn in a pot of boiling water, cover, remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes or until tender - remove from water and serve warm.
Baking: Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Strip off the husk and remove any fine silk from the corn. Wrap in foil and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until tender.
Grilling: Remove any silk from the top of the cob, soak corn (in the husk) for 5 to 10 minutes. Place corn on the grill and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes, or until tender. Alternatively you can peel the corn, wrap in foil and then place the corn on the grill.
Microwave: Remove most of the husk, leaving one or two layers in place. Remove the silk from the top of the husk. Place corn on a paper towel and microwave for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat, and very carefully remove remaining layers of husk.
If smothering hot corn on the cob with butter is the only way you enjoy it, it's time to broaden your horizons. Here are many different and healthy ways to cook, season and enjoy fresh corn on the cob.
Healthy ways to enjoy
Ontario Corn Producers' Association - http://www.ontariocorn.org/
Foodland Ontario - http://www.foodland.gov.on.ca/index.html
The World's Healthiest Foods - http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=90
Strom's Farm - Guelph Ontario - http://www.strom.ca/index.htm
Did you know?
Nothing quite says summer like fresh corn on the cob. With a short growing season that lasts from August to October, its short season makes it a special summer treat worth waiting for. Its crunchy texture and sweet taste aren't the only things it has going for it - it turns out fresh corn gets high marks when it comes to nutrition too. This month we're going back to land and celebrating one of Canada's most abundant crops - corn!
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