The Ingredient: Corn

How to make this ingredient pop.

A kernel of truth: 

An ear of corn averages 800 kernels in 16 rows. 

100 bushels of corn produces about 7,280,000 kernels. 

Farmers grow corn on every continent except Antarctica.

Waiting for Taber: 

The town of Taber is in an area of Alberta that experiences more bright sunshine than anywhere else in Canada, which results in corn that is substantially sweeter than most corn varieties. 

Corn grown in the Taber area is so prized for its flavour that nefarious corn vendors at roadside stands try to pass off counterfeit corn to get in on the trade. To ensure the corn you’re buying is actually from Taber, ask the vendor to provide a certificate of authenticity that includes the name and phone number of the farm where the corn originated. 

Bet you didn’t know …

Corn, or maize, as it was originally called, was domesticated by ancient Indians in a region of Mexico. It resembled the seed head at the top of a wheat stalk more than the firmly packed ears of sweet corn varieties that first appeared in North America in the 1700s. 

Remember this: 

Harvest sweet corn when the silk end of the ear is completely filled out, the silk has turned brown and the kernels are firm with milky fluid.  

Goin’ Old School:

For every plant they hoped to harvest, pioneers planted four kernels of corn: “One for the maggot, one for the crow, one for the cutworm and one to grow.”

The Dirty on Corn: 

Huitlacoche, also known as “corn smut,” is the end result of a pathogenic disease that forms on corn kernels. First used by the Aztecs, huitlacoche is used in Mexican dishes and is now becoming a delicacy in North America. The yeast-like growth is loaded with lycine and packed with more beta-glucans (a cholesterol-cutting soluble fibre) than oatmeal. 

Gadget: The Corn Zipper

Despite the detailed instructions on the back, the concept is straightforward. You just strip the corn off and it’s ready for recipes like the corn and jalapeo salsa.

Corn zipper by Kuhn Rikon, $12, from Barb’s Kitchen Centre, (9766 51 Ave., 780-437-3134) 

Corn and Jalapeno Pepper Salsa (serves 4)

Recipe by Kathryn Joel of Get Cooking

4 ears fresh corn, corn kernels sliced off (you should have about two cups of corn)

cup boiling water

1 tbsp unscented oil, such as grapeseed or canola

cup green onion, finely sliced

2-5 green jalapeno chilies, roasted, peeled, seeded and chopped

2-5 red jalapeno chilies, roasted, peeled, seeded and chopped

1 red pepper or poblano or Anaheim chili, roasted, peeled, seeded and chopped

2 tsp coriander seeds, dry roasted and ground

1 bunch cilantro, leaves chopped

Juice of 1 lime, or to taste

Sea salt and black pepper

Place the water and corn in a saucepan. Then cook for two to three minutes, over a medium heat, until the corn is just tender.  Drain off any remaining water, then transfer the cooked corn to a bowl.

Heat the oil in a saute pan, then saute the green onions until slightly browned around the edges.  Add to the corn.

Add the remaining salsa ingredients and stir to combine.  Season to taste with lime juice, sea salt and black pepper.

Note: If you prefer a hotter salsa, use more chilies. To roast your peppers and chilies, place them on a baking tray in a 400F oven and roast, turning occasionally, for 20 to 40 minutes, until blackened. Place in a Ziploc bag or in a bowl covered with plastic wrap until cool enough to handle, then peel, seed and chop (this steams your peppers and helps the skin slip off easily).

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