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SWEET CORN - HISTORY, USES AND HEALTH BENEFITS: HOW TO MAKE TUNA AND CORN SALAD
SWEET CORN, MAKAI IN URDU AND OTHERS ZEA MAYS
Sweet corn or corn on the cob is a variant of Zea mays, Zea mays var nigosa or Zeasaccharata (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. Popcorn comes from Zea mays var. everta. Zea mays is the original corn that was grown by the tribes of Central America and Mexico, the Aztecs, Mayans and Olmecs and can be yellow, white, purple, red, brown and even have multi-coloured kernels. Some corn pollen grains were found in drill cores 200 feet below Mexico City which are believed to be 80,000 tears old, so it has a very ancient history. Perhaps it originated in the TehuacanValley in Mexico, but scientists are not certain of this.
It is believed that it 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 their daily rituals and took on religious significance. It also featured in their art.
Native Americans also valued corn and used it as both a food and medicine as well as for other purposes, such as weaving the fibres from the plant into sleeping mats, moccasins, baskets and other items. Corn husk dolls were also made after using the edible kernels.
They used corn for grinding into flour, and this cornmeal was also used in poultices for bruises, swellings and to cure sores and headaches. They also used corn as a diuretic to get rid of excess fluids in the body. The corn husks would be burned and parts of the body which had sores, ulcers, or other skin problems would be held over the smoke, to cure them.
Corn has wound healing properties due partly to the presence of allantoin which is often used in herbal remedies, but which comes, in other countries, from comfrey, Symphytum officinale.
The Spaniards came across corn in the 15th century and too it back to Spain in the 16th. It was the only grain known in the Americas at the time. To begin with sweet corn was greeted with suspicion in Europe and confined to having purely ornamental value. The same thing happened with theaubergine,potato, sweet potato and of course thetomato when they were first introduced into Europe.
The introduction of corn caused some confusion in the England and Wales as corn was the name in those countries for what is now called wheat, and this is how cornflowers got their name. In Scotland and Ireland, corn was the name used foroats, which further confused the issue. Even now, wheat fields are referred to as corn fields by many in England and Wales. Corn on the cob is called that and sweet corn to distinguish between wheat and what the Native Americans called and still call maize.
By 1575 corn had been introduced into the Philippines, Indonesia and western China. It was also taken to Africa where it has become a staple food. It was useful in that continent during the years of the slave trade, as although people were transported to the colonies in the New World, corn helped the population to grow rather than to diminish from illnesses such as malnutrition and because of the fact that so many people wee transported.
Corn contains some of theB-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 withamino 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, pumpkinandredpeppers. 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. Corn also contains fibre which is essential to our diet. It also helps with production of sex and stress-related hormones and is good for our sexual health especially that of men as niacin can help with erectile dysfunctions.
It is believed that it can help with the symptoms of arthritis and rheumatism as the B-complex vitamins can improve joint mobility.
Today there are many uses for corn, and the majority of that grown is not used for human consumption, but to make ethanol which is used instead of lead to increase the octane level of petrol, and for animal feed. We use cornstarch for glue used in binding books, for printers’ ink, shoe polish, aspirin and cosmetics as well as for strengthening fabrics. Corn starch is also made from this plant, and that is found in more than 2,000 processed foods, including marshmallows (the sweet, notMarsh mallow the plant).and ice creams.
Other types of corn include Popcorn, a type of hard corn called aptly flint corn, which has small hard kernels. The natural moisture inside the kernels builds up when they are heated and the hard outer skin explodes from the build-up of pressure inside the kernel. It is this corn that was grown by the ancient American tribes in Mesoamerica. There is Dent corn so-called because each kernel has a dent in it, which is softer than flint corn and used mainly for livestock feed and processed foods. Flour corn is starchy and easily ground for baking. Pod corn is the first type of corn ever grown, and each kernel has its own husk. This is grown purely for scientific research as it is too time-consuming to take each kernel out of an individual husk.
It seems that sweet corn has some very beneficial properties although some of the traditional uses have yet to be proved, such as its use in the treatment of kidney stones and gravel. In China it is used as a diuretic and to help in cases of jaundice. It is believed that it can help in the treatment of diabetes mellitus, although this has not been proved without doubt. It does seem to help to reduce blood sugar levels and blood pressure, however.
It goes well with tuna fish and can be used in many ways, however it is best to steam or grill corn on the cob to get its full nutritional benefits. In Pakistan, street sellers cook it in hot sand in covered metal trays, making a delicious snack on the hoof.
TUNA AND CORN SALAD
225 gr pasta shapes, cooked
400gr tuna fish, flaked
75 gr sweet corn kernels, cooked
1 broccoli head, cut into florets and cooked in boiling water for 5 mins