Gardening Tips and Highlights Waushara County Master Gardeners

Sweet Corn is the August Plant of the Month Sweet corn or corn on the cob is a variant of Zea mays, Zea mays var nigosa, or Zea saccharats (meaning sugary). It originated in what is now Mexico and Central America from a wild grass, which was crossed with teosinte (another wild grass) but the original ancestor no longer exists. This corn was grown by tribes of Central America and Mexico, the Aztecs, Mayans, and Olmecs. The colors can be yellow, purple, white, red, brown, and even have multi-colored kernels. It is believed that sweet corn was first domesticated between 9,000 and 8,000 BC, and by 2,000 to 1,500 BC it had become a staple food in the diets of the Olmecs and Mayans, who held it in great reverence, so much so that it became part of daily rituals and took on religious significance. Native American also valued corn and used it as both a food, medicine, and other purposes, such as weaving the fibers from the plant into sleeping mats, moccasins, and baskets. They used corn for grinding into flour, and this cornmeal was also used in poultices for bruises, swellings, and to cure sores and headaches. Corn has wound healing properties due to the presence of aliantoin, which is often used in herbal remedies, but which comes, in other countries, from comfrey. Corn contains some of the B-complex vitamins including B1 (thiamin), B2 (niacin), B3 (riboflavin), B5 (pantothenic acid) and B6, making corn good for hair, skin, the digestion, heart, and brain. It also contains vitamins C<A and K along with amino acids, flavonoids, and large amounts of beta-carotene and a fair amount of selenium, which improves the functions of the thyroid gland and plays a role in the proper functioning of the immune system. Beta-carotene is also found in tomatoes, papaya, pumpkin and red peppers. Corn therefore possesses potent antioxidant properties which help to protect the body from the ravages of free radicals which can damage the cells and cause cancer. Today there are many uses for corn, and the majority of that grown is not for human consumption, but to make ethanol which is used instead of lead to increase the octane level of petrol. Corn is also used for animal feed. We use cornstarch for glue used in binding books, for printers’ ink, shoe polish, aspirin, and cosmetics as well as strengthening fabrics. Corn starch is also made from this plant, and that is found in more than 2,000 processed foods, including marshmallows and ice creams. This article was obtained from Klein’s Newsletter. Also check out website: http://www.wimastergardener.org for more information.