The old gods took corn pretty serious, so this is no time for a corny joke.
9000 years old and one of the most distributed crops in the world, corn feeds millions of people a year with double the amount produced for food going to animal feed and biofuel. Corn is truly a behemoth of the vegetable world. Only sugar cane beats it, pound for pound.
Corn was domesticated and selectively bred in Central America from a grass called teosinte. The cultural ties remain deep in the area.
Corn is central to many modern and ancient traditions, rituals, and celebrations. I won’t go too far into the older rituals (That gets dark quickly. Think ‘Children of the Corn’ kind of dark) but many PG versions are still practiced today, such as the green corn ceremony of certain Native American tribes. A time of dance, feast and fasting, the first green cobbs are burnt in sacrifice so that the rest of the crop is bountiful. I haven’t checked with the farmers at Streamside to see if they have had a boogie and a burning, but if the corn we have received is anything to go by, I reckon someone cut a rug and blazed a cobb or two.
After salivating over all the traditional corn recipes from the American continent, I think the Mexican street food ‘Elote’ sounds like the prize winner. Grilled right in front of you, slathered in spices and a cheese infused sauce, I think I know where the next stamp in my passport is coming from.
Corn production has become so prodigious there is a crop due for harvest somewhere nearly every month of the year. 1.2 billion ton of corn was grown last year, that’s a lotta cobbs! Locally, the dairy industry consumes 99 percent of the maize grown in NZ. We are the lucky few, a ‘One Percent Club’ I’m proud to be part of! The Waikato make up the majority of NZ’s growing, planting in October. The further south you go, the later the crop, with some regions being too cold to produce.
To store: Refrigerate sweet corn as soon as possible, husks on. The sugar turns into starch over time and the corn will lose its sweetness. Get in early!
To prep: You can eat corn raw or cook it in the husks. Shuck the cob by pulling the husks down the ear and snapping off the stem. If you see a green worm, just cut out the damaged section — the rest of the cob is still edible! To cut the kernels off the cob, stand the cob upright on its base and run a sharp knife from the tip of the ear down to the base.
To cook: Steam corn in 4cm of water for 6-10 minutes or drop ears into boiling water for 3-6 minutes. Season with butter or salt. You can also grill corn in the husk by placing them on the grill for 15 minutes.
To freeze: Blanch on the cob for 3-5 minutes, rinse under cold water, and drain. Cut off the kernels with a knife, and then pack it into airtight freezer containers.
Pan de elote: Mexican sweet corn cake made with fresh corn, sugar and egg whites.
Pastel de choclo: Chilean national dish, a beef and corn casserole.
Tamales: Mesoamerican dish made with ground maize and cooked within the corn husk.
Binaki: Filipino version of sweet tamales consisting of corn, glutinous rice flour, powdered milk, sugar and margarine.
Peruvian ceviche: Served on lettuce with sweet potatoes and toasted corn kernel, flavored with aji chilies.
Succotash: From the Narragansett word “msickquatash,” Containing corn, beans and squash known as ‘The Three Sisters’, which were traditionally companion cultivated together.