Most of the corn in the U.S. (about 99% of all corn production) is field corn; it’s a much starchier cousin to sweet corn, which is what you see in the grocery store or at the farmer’s market, and it doesn’t pop like popcorn does (and despite how much salt and butter you use, it probably won’t taste as good as popcorn either). It is most commonly used to feed livestock, such as cows, pigs and chickens, but it has hundreds of other uses as well. Ninety-five percent of all corn farms in America are family-owned.
Corn is used as livestock feed, as human food, as biofuel, and as raw material in industry. In the United States the colourful variegated strains known as Indian corn are traditionally used in autumn harvest decorations.
Corn Husks are the outside green leaves on a cob of corn, that we usually peel off and discard. You can buy the dried husks at ethnic markets and stores. Or should you happen to have a corn field in your back yard, you can dry your own quite easily. Spread them out in the sun on hot, sunny days until the sun bleaches them (always bringing them in at night.) It can take up to two weeks. Before you store them, make sure they have completely dried out or they will develop mould spots.
Uses for corn husk:
- Toilet Paper:
Long before toilet paper was invented by the Chinese, people used corn husks to finish the job after using the toilet. It sounds better than a lot of other things that were used like rocks and hands!
Corn husks are organic and they can be composted. They just might take a little longer to break down because there are very fibrous.
- Soup Stock:
Use them in Soups: Many people use corn husks in soups for additional flavor. Here is the recipe for Corn Husk and Fennel Stock: Yield: 4 Cups
- Husks from 3 ears of corn (about 3 cups)
- Fennel fronds from 2 fennel bulbs roughly chopped
- 1 onion roughly chopped
- Enough water to cover the greens (approximately 2 liters)
- 1 tsp of sea salt
Place everything in a stock pot, bring to boil and simmer for 45 minutes. When done, strain the stock and set aside.
- Make a Corn Husk Basket:
You can weave corn husks and they make great baskets for gifts.
- Use Corn Husks to wrap up food:
It would be much more economical and sustainable than using Tupperware.
- Use Corn Husks to start a fire:
Corn husks after they have been dried make great fire starters.
- Use them to wrap fish or seafood in to grill them:
Corn husks are cheaper than aluminum foil and biodegradable!
- Feed them to your pigs!
They will eat them and the cobs too, pigs will eat almost anything!
- Corn Husk Mattresses
The husks are gathered as soon as they are ripe, and on a clean, dry day. The outer husks are rejected, and the softer, inner ones are collected and dried in the shade, and when dry, the hard ends, that were attached to the cob, are cut off. They are then drawn through a hatchel or comb, so as to cut them into narrow slips. These, enclosed in a sack, or formed into a mattress like prepared hair, will be found almost equal to the best moss or hair mattresses, and are so durable that, with any ordinary care, they will last from five to ten years.
To harvest your corn silk: Simply pull the golden-green strands off of the ears, when shucking your corn, and spread them out on a plate or paper towel to dry. Corn silk is best used fresh, or as a second best option – freshly dried.
Make sure you use homegrown or organic corn. The silk on conventional corn from the supermarket is likely loaded with pesticides that would be counterintuitive to our goal of increased health.
Throughout history, Corn Silk has been used as a remedy for urinary tract ailments, including bed-wetting, painful and frequent urination, stones, bloating, liver problems, gravel in the bladder and chronic cystitis, urethritis, and prostatitis, (and other prostate disorders). Corn silk is used today as a diuretic and it has also been known to be effective for weight loss and obesity, it has also been used for carpal tunnel syndrome and symptoms of PMS, such as breast tenderness, bloating and it promotes relaxation. By reducing fluid retention in the body, Cornsilk may be helpful for reducing blood pressure, and by eliminating toxins and wastes it may relieve gout, edema, and arthritis as well as work as a gentle detoxifying remedy for the system.
Naturopaths have used Corn silk extracts in the treatment of gonorrhea and all catarrhal conditions of the urinary passage. Corn silk is loaded with flavonoids and polyphenols that are thought to have cancer-fighting antioxidant properties. Corn silk is also said to be an excellent source of vitamin K which has been known to slow bleeding. It is a wonderful skin conditioner and is often found in products for the skin and hair.
Below listed are two methods to prepare corn silk tea.
This is the usual method. You will need ingredients like:
- Dry or fresh corn silk
- Lemon juice
- You will need to boil water for some time.
- When it starts boiling, drop the dried or fresh silk atop.
- Let it boil for a few minutes and steep for a few minutes.
- This will turn into a brown hued caramel-like liquid.
- Strain and serve the tea. You may have it both cold and warm.
- Some people prefer adding lemon juice to add to the taste and flavor of this tea.
- Leftover tea can be kept in the refrigerator for a few days.
This method is ideal for those who want to obtain the natural benefits of corn silk. The ingredients are:
- Dried corn silk, chopped
- This method does not need boiling.
- Pour some water in a glass jar with a lid.
- Add the dried silk corn in the water.
- Put on the lid and then keep the jar out in the sun for an entire day.
- At the end of the day, bring the jar inside and add some honey to it and stir well.
- Keep it in the refrigerator and serve chilled.
With the arrival of spring, corn cobs make ideal seed-starter pots, and they’re a good bit less expensive than their store-bought counterparts, too. To make one of the all-natural containers, simply cut the cob into 2″ or 3″ lengths. Next — using a sharp pocketknife — whittle out the inside of each section, leaving just a thin bottom layer, fill the cob cups with compost, and plant your seeds. Later, when the shoots are large enough to be assigned a permanent spot in the garden, simply scrape open the closed end of each cylinder, and plant the whole shebang! The cob will decompose in time and return its nutrients to the soil.
You don’t only have to smoke meat with wood chips. This interesting technique replaces wood chips with leftover corn cobs. The naked cobs are placed over the charcoal and give meat a sweet but mellow smoky flavor.
Make corn stock.
Toss the cobs in a large pot, cover them with water, add a few big pinches of salt, and simmer for about an hour. The stock will be sweet, fragrant, and golden in hue. Use the liquid gold to make corn soup or chowder, stir it into risotto as it cooks, or make polenta extra corny by swapping it in for your usual cooking liquid.
Toilet paper when out in the woods
I know this sounds crazy but I found out a lot of people that live in farms swear by using corn cobs as toilet paper. Back in the olden days this was normal practice. Mice don’t chew up cobs like the do toilet paper, and cobs are soft on your delicate spots. I’m pretty sure I will ever try this one, but I figured it was worth mentioning.
Current Potential for Use as Biofuel
Corn cobs are currently being used for heat in some parts of Europe, while in the United States, this feedstock is rapidly being developed as a feedstock for cellulosic ethanol, co-firing, and gasification projects. As a direct heat source, corn cobs have a heat value of about 18.4 to 18.7 MJ/kg or approximately 8,000 Btu/lb. Poet Energy constructed a corn-cob cellulosic biofuel demonstration plant that has produced ethanol at a cost of $2.35/gal. Poet has also been instrumental in working with equipment manufacturers and farmers to conduct harvesting studies and develop new cob-harvesting equipment and supply chain logistics. Corn cobs are also being used as feedstocks for gasification in projects like the one ongoing at the University of Minnesota at Morris.
If you aren’t growing grain corns yet, try a patch this next spring. Do your research and see what works well in your area… if you’re way up north, flint corns are your friend. Down south, concentrate on dent corns. And just about anyone can grow popcorn.
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