Is Corn a Vegetable?
Corn is a member of the nightshade family (Solanaceae) which includes tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, peppers and other members of this group. Most people have eaten these plants at one time or another; however, most do not realize they are actually related to vegetables such as peas and beans. They all contain the same basic ingredients: starchy tubers with varying levels of sugar content. Some varieties of corn are high in starch while others are low in it. When cooked, some types of corn become sweet and edible like yams or turnips. Other types remain bitter and unappealing to humans such as peanuts or water chestnuts.
The term “vegetable” refers to any plant that contains a mixture of carbohydrates and proteins that is used for food by animals, including humans. The word vegetable comes from the Latin vita, meaning flesh, and vegeta, meaning living thing. The term is derived from the ancient Greek words κόγματος (kôma), which means animal and σίνδαι (sainoi), which means plant.
Corn was first domesticated about 10,000 years ago in Mexico. By 3000 B.C. it was common in the diets of Native Americans and it became a very important part of their diet.
Indians in what is now the southern United States, planted it as far north as Pennsylvania.
Most European settlers did not like the taste of corn, but its cultivation increased with new ways to use it being developed, such as making alcohol from it. Soon after the American Civil War, most farmers grew corn as a way to fatten their hogs.
While the ear (or cob) is often referred to as the vegetable, actually only the insides are edible. The term corn on the cob is a misnomer since all of the edible portion is located inside the kernels and not on the cob.
Most of what we eat is genetically modified to be sweeter than it would be in its natural state. For example, people 10,000 years ago probably ate corn that was only about 5 percent sweet. Today, sweet corn varieties make up about 90 percent of the market.
This vegetable has been one of the most important foods in the world. It is used in many ways and prepared in numerous dishes. A main source of nourishment for several Native American tribes, such as the Hopi and Aztec Indians, it has helped feed growing populations around the world.
It is an important ingredient in many popular dishes such as corn breads, tortillas, grits and polenta.
The cob can also be eaten when cooked and is often used in casseroles, soups and chowders.
Among the numerous ways to eat corn, however, one of the favorites has to be on the cob grilled or boiled with butter and salt.
The number of different types of corn is limited only by what humans have thought to try. They range from cream-colored corn to varieties that are red, blue, orange, brown and yellow.
Cream-colored corn is mainly eaten off the cob, while most of the colored varieties are used for ornamental purposes since their taste tends to be bitter.
Green corn (or Indian corn) is another way of saying sweet corn since its high sugar content gives it a green color when it’s fresh. When fully ripe it turns yellow.
Some other types of corn include popcorn, flint, dent, pod, waxy, flour and pop. Each type has a different taste, consistency and color.
In addition to being used as a food, corn is also used to make ethanol and is found in a variety of products from toothpaste to film.
To prepare corn, pull off the husks and remove the silk. If you’re going to boil it or cook it in any way other than by baking it in the oven, be sure to cut off the ends first.
Cut the kernels off the cob either straight down or at an angle. Try cutting them at an angle with a knife to make neat, tidy rows when serving.
There are many ways to cook corn.
Most people prefer to either boil or grill it. Boiling is the most common way of cooking corn on the cob since it’s easy and you don’t need any extra ingredients other than the vegetable itself.
To boil it, place the corn in a large pot of salted water (about 1 tbsp. per quart of water). Bring the water to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 7 to 10 minutes.
When done, drain the water and serve.
Grilling corn on the cob is very simple too. Brush it with some butter, sprinkle with salt and pepper and place it directly over the fire.
Turn it every 2 to 3 minutes until all sides are evenly cooked, about 15 minutes in all. Then serve immediately.
Peel off the husk and silk, remove the kernels with a knife or cut the cob in half crosswise and then scrape the kernels off with a table knife. Place the corn in a pot of salted water. Bring it to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer until tender. This should take about 10 minutes.
Drain the water, then add butter and salt to taste. Serve immediately.
Grill the ears of corn over an open flame, turning continuously for about 10 minutes until the corn is lightly charred in places.
You can also wrap the ears of corn in aluminum foil and cook them over the open flame that way.
Cut the cooked corn off the cob. Place it in a pot, add some butter, salt and pepper to taste and mix well.
Sources & references used in this article:
Allelopathic effect of sweet corn and vegetable soybean extracts at two growth stages on germination and seedling growth of corn and soybean varieties by A Iman, Z Wahab, SOS Rastan, MRA Halim – Journal of Agronomy, 2006 – agris.fao.org
All-Vegetable Protein Mixtures for Human Feeding: I. Use of Rats and Baby Chicks for Evaluating Corn-Based Vegetable Mixtures by RL Squibb, MK Wyld, NS Scrimshaw… – The Journal of …, 1959 – academic.oup.com
Loose ear corn and vegetable harvesting device by M Albert – US Patent 1,859,980, 1932 – Google Patents