lemonade learning All About Corn: 
A Cornucopia

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History of Corn

Corn is native to Central and North America and comes in many varieties. We know that corn was grown as early as 5000 BCE by the Mesoamerican people of Mexico and Central America.

Great Lakes tribes grew corn together with beans and squash, and refered to them as the "Three Sisters". First the corn was planted, followed by the beans and squash. The corn provided a structure for the bean vines, while the beans helped fix the nitrogen in the soil. The large leaves on the squash helped keep weeds from growing.

You can try planting the three sisters in your own garden.

  1. Start with sweet corn seed and plant in a sunny area as soon as there is no chance of frost.

  2. When the corn sprouts, plant the beans and squash, leaving enough room for all three to grow, but do not leave more space than necessary or you will need to do some weeding.

  3. Keep the area well watered by watering early in the morning with grey water--old water from your bath or dish washing water. The plants won't mind the soap in these, and you will be reusing the water instead of wasting it down the drain.

  4. If you see signs of insects, mix a couple of drops of dish soap with a litre of water and spray onto the affected plants. Planting marigolds nearby will also help deter garden pests.

  5. When the vegetables are ready, harvest them. The beans will be ready when their pods are full and plump. The corn is ready with the silk starts to turn brown. The squash is ready when it has reached full size and ripened to the expected colour of its variety (butternut will be light brown, spaghetti squash will be bright yellow, pumpkins will be orange or white, etc.).

  6. Be sure to save and dry some of your seeds so you can plant the three sisters again next year! To dry corn, leave an ear or two on the stalk until the kernels have dried out then pick the ear, and pull the kernels (seeds) off. Squash seeds can be laid out on a flat surface until dried (don't worry about washing the strings from them). Beans can be removed from the pods and the seeds left to dry on a flat surface as well. Store the seeds in a paper bag in a cool dark place over winter.

About Corn

When you think of corn, most likely you think of corn on the cob. This kind of corn, as well as that found frozen or canned at your grocery store is called "sweet corn".
You may also think of popping corn which grows on slightly shorter cobs.

Most corn grown in Canada is consumed by farm animals. There are several kinds of feed corn, including dent (field corn), which has both hard and soft starch, and flint (Indian corn) which has a hard outer shell. These have coarser kernels than sweet corn. Dent corn is a starchy corn that is also often used to make corn meal, masa farina for tortillas, and corn bread for human consumption.

Some corn is grown in order to produce ethanol, with is used as a fuel or fuel additive. This was once considered a possible solution to our dependency on oil, but it takes a great deal of land and energy to grow corn for ethanol, so for now at least, it would seem to be unviable.

Details about the parts of a corn kernel can be found here.

Cornstarch is made from grinding the endosperm of the corn into a floury substance.

Corn oil comes from the germ of the corn and is removed through centrifuge and solvent extraction.

Corn syrup is made from cornstarch to which natural enzymes have been added to break it down into glucose. This is heated and turned into corn syrup. High fructose corn syrup is processed slightly differently.

Corn Products

Some of the many products made using corn:

  • corn starch
  • corn syrup
  • ethanol
  • animal feed
  • food for humans
  • corn oil
  • batteries (dry cell)
  • beer
  • firecrackers
  • toothpaste
  • cosmetics
  • soaps and cleaners
  • crayons
  • latex paint
  • wallpaper
  • gypsum wallboard
  • adhesives
  • pharmaceuticals
  • paper plates and cups
  • soft drinks
  • antibiotics
  • textiles
  • stamps
  • inks
  • shoe polish
  • paper and paper board
  • dyes
  • candies and candy bars
  • disposable diapers
  • many processed foods
  • ethyl and butyl alcohol
  • leather tanning
  • margarine
  • insecticides
  • imitation maple syrup
  • spark plugs
  • varnish

Corn Recipes

Popcorn          Campfire Corn         Corn on the Cob      Corn Chowder       Corn Tortillas (YouTube link)

Corn on the Cob

Remove the husk and strings, rinse the corn and snap in half if desired. Add a pinch of sugar to a pot of water and bring to a boil. Insert the corn and let boil for 2 minutes then remove from the water and serve.
If you like to eat your corn with butter, you can melt the butter right in the pot with the water, and when you pull out the corn, it will pass through the butter floating on top and emerge evenly coated.

Corn Chowder

4 cups of fresh or frozen sweet corn
3 Yukon gold potatoes, cubed
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
1 tablespoon sunflower or safflower oil
2-3 medium carrots, sliced thinly
1.5 cups milk, light cream, soy milk or rice milk
1.5 cups vegetable stock * you can vary the proportions of the milk and vegetable stock as desired as long as they make 3 cups in total
optional: 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
optional: peas or chopped fresh green beans
optional: 1 sweet green pepper, chopped
optional: a few drops of hot pepper sauce

  1. In a large soup pot, heat the oil and saute the onions until they start to become translucent, then add the carrots, potatoes, and peppers if using and saute for 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add the milk and stock and stir for one minute, then simmer on medium-low heat covered for another 5 minutes.
  3. Add the corn and remaining ingredients, stir, and let cook until the potatoes are soft.
  4. Use a hand blender to make it smoother if desired, then serve.