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Many of us have great summer memories surrounding sweet corn. In the Midwest, when sweet corn is ready, our meals take on a different look as ears of corn make their way to our plates. Some families even have an annual event where several generations get together to spend a day canning or freezing corn. But there’s more to corn than just the version on the cob.
The four main categories of corn are field, popcorn, sweet and ornamental. More than 200 varieties of corn can be found growing in the United States today. Corn is very versatile since the entire corn plant can be used. You can use the husks for making tamales, the silk to create a medicinal tea, the kernels for food and the stalks for livestock feed. You can find corn in products like tortillas, tortilla chips, cornmeal and corn oil. Miniature ears of corn, known as baby corn, can be used in appetizers, soups, chowders, stews and stir fry dishes. Baby corn is particularly popular in Thai and Chinese cooking.
Corn is typically yellow, but comes in a variety of other colors such as red, orange, blue, white, cream, pink, purple, brown and black.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF CORN
Corn has several health benefits. Because of the high fiber content, it can aid with digestion. It also contains valuable B vitamins, which are important to your overall health. Corn also provides our bodies with essential minerals such as zinc, magnesium, copper, iron and manganese. Corn is a good source of the antioxidants carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, which promote eye health. Since corn is considered a starchy vegetable, people with diabetes need to keep in mind that a ½ cup of corn (or a small ear of corn) contains 15 grams of carbohydrate and counts as one carbohydrate food choice.
CHOOSING AND PREPARING CORN
Corn can be roasted, boiled, broiled, steamed, grilled or microwaved. You can add it to stews, casseroles, salads or salsa. Try adding corn kernels to cornbread batter for enhanced texture and flavor.
Fresh corn on the cob is best if cooked as soon as possible after picking, but that’s not always practical. Once you have brought the corn home, place the ears in your refrigerator as soon as possible. Cold temperatures slow down the chemical reaction that causes corn to lose its sweetness. Leave the husk on, and let the corn sit in the refrigerator uncovered instead of wrapped up tightly in a plastic bag. It’s best if cooked within three days. Once cooked, corn will stay good for three to five days in the refrigerator and 10 to 12 months in the freezer.
If you’re accustomed to boiling your sweet corn, try a new cooking method. Sweet corn on the grill can be a delicious addition to your meal.
Sweet peppers stuffed with scalloped corn
- 4 red or green bell peppers
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 onion, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped
- 2 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels, cut from about 4 large ears of corn
- 1/8 teaspoon chili powder
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
- 3 egg whites
- 1/2 cup skim milk
- 1/2 cup water
- Heat the oven to 350 F. Lightly coat a baking dish with cooking spray. Cut the tops off the bell peppers and remove the seeds. Place in the prepared baking dish and set aside.
- In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, chopped green pepper and corn. Saute until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chili powder and cilantro or parsley. Reduce heat to low.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the egg whites and milk. Add to the corn mixture and stir. Increase heat and continue stirring until egg whites begin to set, about 5 minutes. The mixture should be moist, not dry. Spoon 1/4 of the corn mixture into each pepper. Add the water to the bottom of the baking dish. Cover the peppers loosely with aluminum foil. Bake until the peppers are tender, about 15 minutes. Transfer to individual plates and serve.
Nutritional analysis per serving: calories 197, Total fat 5 g, saturated fat 1 g, trans fat Trace, monounsaturated fat 3 g, cholesterol 1 mg, sodium 83 mg, total carbohydrate 29 g, dietary fiber 5 g, total sugars 14 g, added sugars 0 g, protein 9 g
Linda Carruthers is a registered dietitian-nutritionist in Springfield, Minnesota.