Sunday, August 21, 2011
Cooking New York State Sweet Corn
Hot, fresh corn-on-the-cob is an almost essential part of any summertime party. Corn qualifies as a very good source of thiamin (vitamin B1), and a good source of many vitamins including pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), folate, niacin (vitamin B3) and vitamin C. Corn was also determined to be a good source of dietary fiber, and the minerals phosphorous and magnesium.
For western civilization, the story of corn began in 1492 when Columbus's men discovered this new grain in Cuba. An American native, it was exported to Europe rather than being imported, as were other major grains.
Like most early history, there is some uncertainty as to when corn first went to Europe. Some say it went back with Columbus to Spain, while others report that it was not returned to Spain until the second visit of Columbus.
The word "corn" has many different meanings depending on what country you are in. Corn in the United States is also called maize or Indian corn. In some countries, corn means the leading crop grown in a certain district. Corn in England means wheat; in Scotland and Ireland, it refers to oats. Corn mentioned in the Bible probably refers to wheat or barley.
At first, corn was only a garden curiosity in Europe, but it soon began to be recognized as a valuable food crop. Within a few years, it spread throughout France, Italy, and all of southeastern Europe and northern Africa. By 1575, it was making its way into western China, and had become important in the Philippines and the East Indies.
Although corn is indigenous to the western hemisphere, its exact birthplace is far less certain. Archeological evidence of corn's early presence in the western hemisphere was identified from corn pollen grain considered to be 80,000 years old obtained from drill cores 200 feet below Mexico City. Another archeological study of the bat caves in New Mexico revealed corncobs that were 5,600 years old by radiocarbon determination. Most historians believe corn was domesticated in the Tehuacan Valley of Mexico. The original wild form has long been extinct.
Evidence suggests that cultivated corn arose through natural crossings, perhaps first with gamagrass to yield teosinte and then possibly with back-crossing of teosinte to primitive maize to produce modern races. There are numerous theories as to the ancestors of modern corn and many scientific articles and books have been written on the subject. Corn is perhaps the most completely domesticated of all field crops. Its perpetuation for centuries has depended wholly on the care of man. It could not have existed as a wild plant in its present form.
Sweet corn is one of the most important vegetable crops produced in New York, in terms of acreage, crop value and number of producers. Fresh market and processing sweet corn are produced for local, regional, and national markets. With the exception of rust and seed decay, sweet corn has relatively few disease problems relative to other vegetables.
Produced statewide, sweet corn had a value of $58.3 million. Concentrations are found in the Lower Hudson Valley and around the Genesee Valley. Production of fresh market sweet corn crop ranked 5th in the nation.
Sweet corn (Zea mays convar. saccharata var. rugosa; also called Indian corn, sugar corn, and pole corn) is a variety of maize with a high sugar content. Sweet corn is the result of a naturally occurring recessive mutation in the genes which control conversion of sugar to starch inside the endosperm of the corn kernel. Unlike field corn varieties, which are harvested when the kernels are dry and mature (dent stage), sweet corn is picked when immature (milk stage) and prepared and eaten as a vegetable, rather than a grain. Since the process of maturation involves converting sugar to starch, sweet corn stores poorly and must be eaten fresh, canned, or frozen, before the kernels become tough and starchy.
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