If it was not for the indigenous people 10,000 years ago living in what is now known as southern Mexico, the world would never have a cereal grain that is very important in the production of items used in today’s modern way of life. Many of us know corn as food, but the many byproducts produced from corn are essential in the modern-day production of items, and these are not just food alone: adhesives, cosmetics, hand soap, varnish, matches, tires, and molded plastic, to name a few.
Indeed, corn goes beyond the corn in a cob. Corn is a very broad and diverse topic, even if limited to the discussion of corn as food; for example, corn is not just food for humans – corn silage, for example, is a common feed for cows. A popular variety of corn is sweet corn which has a high sugar content, hence the name. This is one of the six types of corn, along with dent corn, flint corn, pod corn, flour corn, and popcorn. A non-GMO variety of corn that usually comes in purple color and is commonly found in countries like Peru, Bolivia, Colombia and Ecuador is called purple corn. A kind of corn typically used as an ornament because of its colors, the same type that is used to make popcorn, is known as the Indian corn.
Species: Z. mays
Binomial name: Zea mays
- Corn is the official grain of Wisconsin. But as of 2019, Iowa is the top-producing state in the US when it comes to corn, and it is Nebraska that owns the title of Cornhusker State.
- Speaking of titles, the honor of being the Corn Cob Pipe Capital of the World goes to Washington, Missouri.
- A specific kind of corn is grown to make a popular snack – popcorn. You can’t just use any corn to make popcorn.
- Did you know that the sugary varieties of corn will lose sweetness fast after harvesting? It is advisable to cook and eat these as soon as possible.
Corn Buying Guide
The first thing to remember when buying corn is knowing what you need. If you are grilling or preparing for a barbecue, you need to buy corn on a cob. In groceries and supermarkets, you can buy corn without the husk, but experts recommend using unhusked corn for grilling or roasting. Unhusked corn is also ideal if you want to boil corn. The upside of using corn without the husk is it is easier to eat and faster to prepare. If you need corn kernels, buy canned corn.
Regarding where to buy, corn is sold everywhere – groceries, stores, supermarkets, farmers markets, even online. If you need corn with the husk intact, go to a farmers market, a farmstand, or a market stand first.
When buying uncooked corn on a cob, examine the corn. Check for discoloration or signs of damage on the corn like holes or missing kernels. When buying canned corn or any other corn products sold in commercial packaging, check the can and the packaging for any signs of tampering or quality issues. Also, make sure to check the expiration date of canned corn before buying.
Corn Production & Farming in Texas
Texas may not be part of the US Corn Belt but many farmers here grow corn. According to the website of the Texas Corn Producers Association (TCPA) which promotes and protects the interests of corn producers in Texas, two million acres of farmlands in Texas grow corn annually with an average of 105 bushels per acre. In the last five years, Texas corn production has averaged around 285 million bushels of corn.
According to TCPA, the statewide schedule for planting and harvesting corn begins in February and culminates in a July harvest. Each region has a slightly different schedule. The earliest to plant corn is South Texas, where planting corn begins in February with an expected harvest in May. Central Texas begins planting in late February to early March hoping to harvest before June. North Texas follows with a start date of early to mid-March and a June harvest, while Panhandle starts in April and harvests by late June to early July.
Corns need full sun. They grow well in loamy soils with slightly acidic to neutral soil pH. Corn’s hardiness zone range is from 4 to 9. Here are some tips from people with experience planting corn. Do not start corn indoors, and instead start them directly on the ground. Always make sure to start two weeks after the last spring frost. Make sure the soil temperature is at least 60°F (16°C). For sweeter varieties of corn, make sure the soil temperature is 65°F (18°C). If you live in a cold area, use black plastic covers to help warm the ground. Use aged manure or compost and make sure the soil is well-draining but holds enough moisture for corns that use a lot of water.
Here are some of the chemicals used in growing corns:
- 2,4-D – Herbicide used to manage problems involving broadleaf weeds.
- Atrazine – Herbicide used to prevent the emergence of broadleaf weeds.
- Glyphosate – Herbicide used against perennial weeds.
The report made by Vermont’s Agency of Agriculture regarding the state of pesticide use on cornfields can give us an idea about pesticide use in growing corn. Here are some of the salient points from the 2018 report:
- In Vermont where corn is the state’s number one crop, there was a noticeable rise in pesticide use in previous years, and this is attributed to managing fields that grow GMO corn.
- The use of glyphosate has doubled.
- In 2016, Vermont’s GMO cornfields were bathed in 194,631 pounds of pesticide.
According to the 2016 Agricultural Chemical Use Survey conducted by the US Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), herbicides were applied on 97% of planted acres growing corn and the most common herbicide used was atrazine, while the use of insecticides and fungicides only covered 12%.
Growing corn poses a problem, especially if there are raccoons and deer near the field. Corn is also prone to being attacked by cucumber beetles, flea beetles, and cutworms, which require the use of pesticides
- Cucumber beetles – Use Kaolin clay, Beauveria bassiana, and/or botanical insecticides. Other options include using pyrethrin or spinosad spray.
- Flea beetles – The use of man-made pesticide carbaryl is the solution to rid of flea beetles. Other options include pyrethroid insecticides like cyfluthrin and Lambda cyhalothrin, pesticide malathion, pyrethrin spray, permethrin insecticide, and spinosad.
- Cutworms – Pesticides such as carbaryl will kill cutworms attacking your beans. Pyrethroid insecticides like cyfluthrin and the insecticide permethrin are also useful for this purpose.
The US is the world leader when it comes to growing and producing corn, with an estimated 2019-2020 production pegged at 346 million metric tons. Other countries like China, Brazil, Argentina, Ukraine, and India, are also major corn-producing countries. Iowa, Indiana, most of Illinois, and parts of Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin form the US Corn Belt. These are the places in the US where corn is a major cash crop.
Corn clean without the husk and ready for cooking is sold on a tray (plastic, Styrofoam, or carton) covered with plastic wrap. Other products like corn kernels and baby corn are sold in cans. The packaging contains important information like nutrition information, quantity, name of the manufacturer, instructions for cooking and storage, expiration date, and other important information.
There are many ways to eat corn. You can roast or boil corn. Roasted or grilled corn goes well with grilled meat. You can cut it up into smaller pieces and use it as an ingredient for broths and stews. Corn kernels are used in making corn soup.
Corn has become a staple food more in-demand compared to rice or wheat. The masa – dough that comes from ground nixtamalized corn – is the primary ingredient in many Latin American foods like tortillas and tamales. Cornbread is a popular side dish, so is steam corn or corn in a cob. Popcorn is a favorite snack, and the sale of canned corn kernels is consistently high because of its versatility as an ingredient. That, and think about all the foods that contain corn starch or corn syrup and it is easy to imagine how important corn is to the modern world.
Corn still covered with husk need not be refrigerated. You can just put them in a basket and leave them on the counter or anywhere dry and out of reach of animals and insects. Corn with the husk removed should be stored in a sealed plastic pack or food container with a lid and refrigerated. Canned corn is shelf-stable and does not require refrigeration. You can simply keep these in the pantry. Just make sure the storage space is dry. If the can is exposed to water it can cause the can to develop rust. Surface rust is ok but deep rust could result in holes causing the contamination of the contents, and these should be disposed of immediately.
Corn is very easy to cook. Oven-roasted corn takes 25 minutes. Boiling corn usually takes between 5 to 10 minutes depending on the corn and how soft you want your corn. If you are cooking corn, most of the time it does not need to sit under the fire for too long. The fact that it is easy to cook is just a bonus because the real advantage of having corn is that you can use it to make a wide variety of dishes and you can mix it with different ingredients with different flavor profiles.
You can use corn if you are making pasta, bread and pies, soups, ice creams, pasta, burger, tacos, salads, pancakes, pickled corn, salsa, and chilis. It is great with meat – beef, pork, lamb, turkey, or chicken. It goes well with sausage, chorizo, and bacon. You can mix it with rice, lima beans, tofu, even with hazelnuts, peanuts, coconut, or milk. You can mix corn with cheese, avocado, plantain, mushroom, jalapeños, tomatoes, squash, leeks, zucchini, and greens, leafy vegetables. You can mix it with seafood like clams, scallops, shrimp, salmon, and trout; or even with fruits like peaches, blueberries, and strawberries. You can use it alongside ingredients that really amplify the flavor of the ingredients, like butter, ginger, lime, herbs and spices (turmeric, mint, cinnamon), onions, pepper, and garlic. You can even have it on ice with milk.
Corn is a great source of energy. It has carbohydrates, fats, and protein. It has vitamin A, vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and B9, and vitamin C. It has iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc. Eating corn can help improve digestion and maintain eye health. But if you are looking to lower your blood sugar level or lose weight, make sure to eat corn in moderation because this food is high in starch.
When Are Corn in Season in Texas?
To find out when Corn are in season in Texas, please check the seasonal chart below. Why is this important? We are rarely encouraged to think about the physical lengths our food travels before arriving on the market shelves. And all of this travel comes with a hefty environmental cost that is concealed from the consumer’s eye. One of the most salient benefits to eating seasonally is that you are effectively reducing your carbon footprint and supporting a more geographically sustainable food economy. Check other fruit and veg that’s in season in Texas now.