crazy for corn

Why didn’t anyone laugh at the farmer’s jokes?

They were too corny!

 

cooked corn
mmmm….tastes like summer!**

I have come to accept and even appreciate many of the food discrepancies here in Germany. However, there are a few things that just don’t cut it. Corn is one of those things. Back in New York, corn is a summertime staple. It is always fresh, sweet and delicious. We would grill it in the husk, boil it or even eat it raw. It didn’t matter. Then there was the wonderful fact that it was really inexpensive. This made it even better because it is something that people from all socioeconomic backgrounds can enjoy.

Alas, the corn here in Germany is tough, lacks flavor and is really expensive (at least $1.99 Euro for a 2 pack). I recently took a few ears of corn from a field and it was really nasty – completely inedible. I suppose that serves me right for taking it! Due to the fact that it is not very appetizing, most people do not really like it and it is not widely consumed with the notable exception of corn pieces in salads. It doesn’t really belong there, but it is quite common. Not totally sure why.

Corn was originally domesticated 7-10 thousand years ago and is currently the third largest cash crop in the world (in the United States, approximately 86 percent of all corn is genetically modified). There are five classifications:

  1. Flour which has discontinuous endosperm, relatively low protein and is composed mostly of waxy starch;
  2. Sweet which has more sugar than starch and is eaten when immature;
  3. Dent is animal feed. It is low in amylase and waxy;
  4. Popcorn and Flint corn are high in protein storage that surrounds the amylase starch.

It is a staple food for many countries throughout the world and can be dry or wet milled. Corn that has been dry milled is classified by the size of the product. Wet milled corn is first cooked in .8-5% calcium hydroxide. This is called nixtamalization. The process changes the protein storage bonds and the corn becomes an emulsifier. The germ and kernel is then ‘mashed’ together to create masa which is used to form a multi-purpose dough. Other uses for corn include making whiskey and conversion to industrial products, such as ethanol.

corn in husk
upstate NY sweet corn : )

To grow corn, wait until there are no more chances of frost and the soil temperatures reach 15.5 degrees Celsius to ensure germination. The plants will require a lot of nutrients, especially nitrogen, so it is best to choose a location that has been enriched with compost or fertilizer. The space should have some protection from wind when possible. Companion planting with nitrogen-fixing plants like beans is also an option. This practice has been used by the American Indians for generations. Sticking a few squash plants in the mix won’t hurt either!

Seeds should be sown at a depth of 3.5cm in the earlier parts of the season and up to 7cm when the weather is hotter. As the germination rate for corn is estimated at 75 percent, it is recommended that three seeds be planted every 16cm. At least 4 rows of corn should also sown in order to ensure pollination.  Be sure to weed the area around corn seedlings because the plant’s shallow roots are unable to effectively compete for nutrients. When the plants are between 15 -20cm tall, thin to one plant every 30cm and fertilize. Repeat when they are approximately knee-high. Throughout the growing season and especially when the tassels form, it is essential to regularly water the plants. A lack of sufficient moisture can result in ears with missing kernels (and who wants that!?). About three weeks after the tassels are formed, start checking for ripeness (when the kernels produce a white milky fluid when punctured, they are at peak ripeness) and enjoy!

 

**Photos courteous of my mom.  Thanks mom : )

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