Corn silks actually have a purpose

Published 7:30 am Saturday, May 21, 2022

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“What’s the purpose of these things?” my mother wondered as she struggled with a wad of corn silk. Tiny beads of perspiration had popped out on her face. We sat on the floor which was covered with an old bedspread in my kitchen surrounded with corn to be shucked. It was definitely too hot to accomplish the job outside. We would have to fight off flies and other annoying insects. ”Well, I answered. “If this Silver Queen corn wasn’t so delicious, I would forget about putting any other kind in the freezer.

Fairly soon after we moved to Baldwin County, someone told us about how good Silver Queen was. In a few days we happened to drive by a place where cars were lined up waiting their orders for corn. We learned it was a family enterprise, everything the oldest son brought out and sold was his applied to his college fund. I thought it was a wonderful stuation—his many customers got nice corn and the young man earned money for college. Several times that summer, we lined up with other cars to get our Silver Queen.

While the microwave oven processed a big bowl of juicy kernels and we stripped the corn of its husks and brushed away clinging silks with wet paper towels, my mother commented that our job would be much easier if corn had no silks.

A few hours before we jumped into the overwhelming task of preparing what seemed like a mountain of corn for the freezer, someone at a vegetable stand told us the best way to cook it was to pop it into the microwave husk and all. She said it took three minutes to cook it. She added that it was delicious. Wait a few minutes to cool, then grip the husks ad silks together and pull them off. That way it leaves just a few silks to take off. We did it and got good results.

Another tip she gave was to use ears that look good to avoid getting some unwanted protein that sometimes show up in even the best of corn.

After enjoying that delicious corn on the cob and getting the rest of it ready to cream, I kept thinking about my mother’s question about what purpose the silks served. After finishing with the corn that day, I reached for an encyclopedia and I found an answer. I also learned corn is a grass belonging to a group of six true grains.

Oh, and back to what I found about corn silks surprised me. Each kernel has a silk that runs from that kernel up to the row of the kernels to the end of the husk. If I understood it right, it means that the amount of corn silk in an ear of corn depends on how many kernels are in it. I had plenty to tell my mother about those corn silks. Oh yes, corn silk plays a role in pollination but I will leave that for another column.