Today’s article is rather corny. That’s right, our random selection this week is all about maize, aka corn. How many of kernels of truth did you pick up today?
It comes in many varieties.
You can find corn in various colors, including yellow, white, red, blue, black, pink, and even rainbow, to name a few. The many varieties of corn include dent corn, which is used for grits, flours, syrups, and starches; sweet corn, which is the kind you find in the store and eat directly; popcorn, which needs no explanation; flour corn, which is made into flours and starches; and flint corn, which is mostly used for decorative purposes.
It was an important part of many Native American diets.
This important staple food also helped out in the garden, providing stalks for growing beans and shade to other less sun-tolerant plants. Husks were made into masks, sleeping mats, baskets, dolls, shoes, and many other useful items. As for the cobs, they were dried and used as darts, fuel, and ceremonial rattles. No part of the corn plant was wasted.
Domestic corn is unable to grow wild.
Corn originated from an ancient grass called teosinte. This grass comes with a few hard grains that resemble corn kernels. Over thousands of years, the plant was selectively bred for softer kernels until maize was created. The plant has been with humans so long that it requires human attention to grow; it will not grow on its own in the wild. If humans were to disappear, so would corn.
Cornstarch is used for various health reasons.
Veterinarians use cornstarch to stave off bleeding from a doggy toenail. Though it is said to work to stop bleeding of human wounds, it is not recommended because of the risk of bacterial growth. Cornstarch also relieves skin irritation, prevents athlete’s foot, stops chafing, and helps bug bites and blisters, not to mention it works as a deodorant.
High fructose corn syrup does a number on the body.
The health problems associated with the consumption of large amounts of high fructose corn syrup are numerous. It not only encourages the body to produce more fat, it raises the risks for fatty liver disease, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. This doesn’t even cover the fact that it contains mercury, which, if you read our metals article, you know that you want nowhere near your body!
Corn is used in nature religions.
The Corn Mother is a fertility goddess in several traditions. In witchcraft and Wicca, corn is used to ward of negative forces and bring luck. Some Native American populations once used red corn to aid in difficult childbirth situations. Blue corn is also considered sacred to some cultures.
The word “corn” used to mean something different in Europe.
Corn was actually called Turkish wheat at one point in Europe. The word “corn” was reserved for a different grain. Though no one is entirely sure which of the many grains it referred to, it may have been regular wheat.
Popcorn is a lot older than you think.
Popcorn was discovered by Native Americans thousands of years ago, being popped as early as 4700 BC in some locations in South America. Aztecs used popcorn both for eating and as ornamental decoration. The tradition of popping corn was later introduced to European settlers, who quickly adopted this food for their own.
Corn oil has many uses.
This oil is used most frequently in cooking, especially Mexican food, but this is not its only use. It is also used for industrial cleaner and lubricant. Corn oil is an ingredient in the production bio-fuel. It is found in shampoos and conditioners, cosmetics, paint, and rust-proofing products. You can also use it as a natural polisher or stain cleaner.
Corned beef and foot corns have little to do with actual corn.
The term “corned beef” actually refers to the grains of salt used to cure the meat, which are about the size and shape of corn kernels. In the case of foot corns, the term comes from the Latin word cornu, meaning horn or hoof.
Whole state economies in the Midwest depend on corn, which feeds both humans and livestock. Unfortunately, the corn industry may also be related to the dead zone that is now growing annually in the Gulf of Mexico. We can do better than this. Sustainable farming practices are out there and, if we want to keep this important crop, we should start using them. The environment depends on it.
New Mexico State University- www.nmsu.edu
Brewster Veterinary Hospital- www.brewstervet.com
Cleveland Clinic- www.clevelandclinic.org
National Institutes of Health- www.nih.gov
Stack Exchange- www.stackexchange.com
The Washington Post- www.washingtonpost.com
Popcorn for the People- www.popcornforthepeople.com
HL Agro- www.hlagro.com
Smithsonian Magazine- www.smithsonianmag.com
Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, Scott Cunningham, 2003