Corn: A Colorful and Nutrient Dense Heritage from Central and South America

What are we going to do about corn? Corn is one of those vegetables that I struggle with. I have always enjoyed sweet corn. But since I’ve started to eat healthier, I’ve discovered that there is some question about whether corn is healthy to eat. When we became gluten free, corn flour became a new pantry staple. And then came the debate over genetically modified foods.

Most sweet corn products on the grocery store shelves are not grown specifically from GMO seed but, because of the way that corn is pollinated, can and do cross with genetically modified field corn. So unless your corn seeds are certified GMO free and you can ensure that there is no risk of contamination from GMO field corn, there’s always a probable risk of contamination.  Also, the sweet corn isn’t specifically GMO, but that can’t be said from products derived from corn such as sweeteners, starches, and oils according this article by Environmental Working Group.  Most of these products use field corn and so most likely contain a large amount of GMOs.

Also, according to this same article very little pesticide and herbicides get to the corn itself because the corn’s thick husk protects it.  But that doesn’t mean these pesticides are herbicides aren’t a risk to humans and other animals.  In fact just recently farmers filed a class action lawsuit against Monsanto due to the commonly used roundup herbicide potentially being a contributing factor in their Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  And all last year Monsanto has been embroiled in revelations that its company attempted to cover up roundups connection to cancer.

Nutritionally, corn is high in carbs and high in fiber, and does have some good vitamins and minerals. But, I’ve been reading, as we have bred our vegetables to be sweeter and sweeter, we have also inadvertently bred out some of the nutritional value.

We have started buying corn products that are organic to avoid the genetic modification, but it is still just standard yellow corn, with an occasional blue corn tortilla chip. The world of corn is so much bigger.

So, I went back to the seed catalogues seeking GMO free corn seed with more color and more nutrient value. This years garden is getting to be quite an adventure in diversity and variety.

There are so many varieties of beautiful corn: purple, green, red, blue, pink, black, multicolored and orange. Not only are they beautiful, they are often higher in protein and other nutrients than their yellow and white counterparts. Some of the corn stalks will grow 12 ft tall, some only 4 ft tall and some will grow better in the north (where I’m at). Often these varieties can’t be grown well by huge agribusiness farms. If you want them, you will have to grow them, or find them at a farm market.

Because I want to grow corn for my animals as well as my family this year, I am going to grow small plots of several varieties, all inside my fenced in orchard to protect the corn from the heavy deer pressure we suffered in our garden last season. It probably won’t meet all our needs, but I have never really grown corn well before, so I am starting small. I am also going for colorful varieties. Look for future posts to learn about what nutrients are indicated by the color of your foods.

Oaxacan Green corn 

Unfortunately, around here its not too easy to find gmo free seed of any kind of corn.  If I want the interesting colorful ones, I have to go back to my seed catalogs.

Bloody Butcher corn 

I bought these seeds a few years ago and never planted them. This year I ‘ll plant them with other varieties and expand our diet with colorful tortillas, tamales, and cornbread.   Maybe I’ll even plant some blue corn on the cob.

Wade’s Giant Indian Corn 

This seed originates from a nursery in Michigan. Since we live in Michigan, I am hoping for great success especially with this variety.

I also hope to plant one of the blue corn varieties, and maybe a pink and orange corn also. It is so hard to choose.

I am looking for recipes on making my own masa and ideas for what to make with my colorful corn. If you have some thoughts, I would love to hear them in the comment section below.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Ann says:

    Thank you for this post! Is there an update? I am very interested in what you found. I am eating gluten free and am wanting a healthier alternative to the standard yellow corn meal that is very high in carbs and low in nutrition.
    Thank you,

    1. Laura says:

      Hi Ann, Unfortunately my garden experiment was thwarted by the weather and animals again. I got a few ears of purple, pink, blue and red corn, but not enough to make much with, so I have saved it for seed to try again. In the mean time, I found that my local health food store sells bulk organic blue cornmeal, which is better than the standard yellow cornmeal at the regular grocery store. I am still excited about all these other varieties though. Next years garden needs a better fence!!

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