Fresh corn is one of the culinary pleasures of life. Snack and party food, such as corn on the cob, corn and black bean salsa (a.k.a Southern Caviar), are among the favorites. Corn, popular around the world, was cultivated 8,000 years ago in Central and South America and by Native Americans. To this day, it is a staple in those cultures’ daily meals and also plays a spiritual role.

Although containing naturally-occurring sugar higher than most vegetables, and should therefore be consumed in moderation, most people don’t realize that fresh corn is dense with nutrients. It is high in Beta carotene, phosphorous, lutein, zeaxanthin, potassium, choline, magnesium and fiber.

Corn is a member of the grass family that includes wheat, oats, rice, barley, rye, and millet. The kernels are the fruit of the plant as well as its seeds. Sweet corn, consumed as a vegetable, is different from corn grown for feeding livestock, for corn syrup production, oil, corn starch, meal and flour, and for ethanol fuel. In its dried and ground state corn is considered a grain and is gluten-free. It does not, however, offer the same nutritional level as fresh (and raw frozen) corn.

Baby (miniature) corn is not a specific cultivar. It is simply harvested very early. Corn varieties include black, purple, yellow, red, speckled and white. Unfortunately, most U.S. corn crops are genetically modified, also known as genetically engineered, and are also heavily sprayed with pesticides. It is therefore highly recommended to buy corn that is organic and non-GM exclusively. Most grocery stores carry, at least, bags of organic raw frozen kernels. Look for the official, certified USDA organic logo. Steamed (still frozen) for 5 minutes the kernels can then be used in numerous dishes, even added to your mixed raw vegetable salad. Steam corn-on-the-cob, (cut in half to fit your pot), for 12 minutes. Big flavor is on the menu! Enjoy delicious new ways to boost the nutritional value of your meals.

Judy E. Buss is a nutritional cooking instructor, Blogger for the American Holistic Health Association and speaker.

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