Stories from the Field

The Many Uses of Corn

It’s fall in Nebraska, and that means a lot of fun for Nebraskans! Between Halloween, Vala’s Pumpkin Patch, leaves changing, and cool nights by a campfire, Nebraska is a pretty great place to be! But even more exciting is, you guessed it, Husker football games! It is quite a site to see Memorial Stadium packed to the brim with Nebraskans decked out in red shouting “Go Cornhuskers!”. Wait a second, what is a cornhusker? A cornhusker is a person or device that removes the husks from corn. Why are we called the Cornhuskers? Nebraska is one of the top corn producing states ranking third under Illinois and Iowa.

Living in Nebraska, corn is something many of us see. Especially this time of year when it’s close to harvest time. However, even in our state, some people may not realize how many things we get from corn other than food.

In many languages, corn is known as maize. Corn has been around for about seven thousand years and was originally cultivated in Mexico. It is believed that the Native Americans bred the first corn from wild grasses and high-yielding plants to make hybrids. Today corn is the most widely grown crop in the western hemisphere. The different types of corn are flint, popcorn, flour, dent, and sweet corn.

Flint corn is oftentimes referred to as Indian corn, or sometimes calico corn. This type of corn is many different colors. It was cultivated by Native Americans as long ago as 1000 B.C. A variation of flint corn is used to make the popular snack we know as popcorn!

Flour corn has a soft, starchy endosperm and is primarily ground up to use as flour. Corn flour, just like wheat flour, is used to make things such as breads, pastries, and cakes.

Sweet corn has a higher natural sugar content than other types of corn. While other types of corn are harvested when the kernels are dry and mature, sweet corn is picked while it’s immature. Most corn is eaten as a grain, but sweet corn is eaten as a vegetable. Sweet corn matures by converting sugar to starch, and it must be eaten fresh, canned or frozen, so the kernels don’t get tough.

Dent corn got its name from the dent it has in the kernel. In the U.S, most of the corn grown is dent corn, or a variety derived from it. It is used as a base ingredient for cornmeal which makes cornbread, corn chips, tortillas, and taco shells. The high starch content found in dent corn is turned into plastics and fructose, which is used as a sweetener in processed foods and soft drinks. The feed used for livestock is also made from dent corn as is ethanol and cooking oils.

There’s a lot of things that corn goes into! I bet you had no idea that corn was involved in some of those things. Think about how many corn-related products you use in a day. You wake up, pour yourself a bowl of cereal and milk. The cereal has fructose in it, and the cow that produced that milk ate corn as feed. You grab a plastic cup and pour yourself some juice and the plastic were made with corn. At the Husker game party, you decide to eat a big juicy steak with corn on the side and blueberry muffins for desert. You not only ate corn but cooked with corn-based products! Go Cornhuskers!

Shelby Dunn is a senior at North Bend Central. She plans to pursue a degree in Agricultural Education with hopes of becoming an Ag teacher. She has participated in many sports and 4-H, but FFA is easily her number one activity.

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