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It’s hard to beat the juicy burst of sweet corn kernels straight from the cob. Peel back the husk of a fresh ear of corn (stripping away the silk) and we are munching through the neat rows of yellow or white kernels of a very big grass seed head that was cultivated in the Americas for thousands of years before Christopher Columbus arrived on the scene.

Although “officially” a grain, the particular variety we tuck into is very much eaten immature as a vegetable. Boil, steam, microwave, bake or barbecue and serve piping hot with just a dot of butter and sprinkle of salt. Or add the kernels to soups, stews and stir fries; fritters and frittatas; chowders and crepes; salsas and salads; muffins, breads and corn cakes, and toss whole baby corn into stir-fries.

Buy cobs with fresh green unblemished husks that fit snugly with moist slightly brown silky tassels intact. (If the tassels are black or dry, the corn is old: if dry and pale the corn is immature) if you can get a peek at the kernels, they should be tightly packed, plump, shiny and smaller at the tip than they are in the middle (this indicates a young cob). When sweet corn is really fresh, the kernels will release a milky liquid when cut. As the natural sugars in the kernels start converting to starch once the husk is removed, resist buying pre-packed shucked ears. Snap-frozen cobs and kernels make a handy year-round substitute.

Wholegrain products made from corn include:

  • Polenta, a coarsely ground dried corn that is actually a type of grits. (Avoid instant polenta, it may be convenient and foolproof but it’s not the same at all.)
  • Corn grits, which are chopped up dried kernels that you can use in soups or stews or serve as a side dish.
  • Hominy grits are corn grits that have been treated with an alkaline solution (nixtamalized).

Corn is often used as a base for gluten-free processed foods. Be aware that many products made from corn don’t have a low GI at all – cornflakes (GI 77), popcorn (GI 72), cornmeal (GI 68) and corn pasta (GI 87). Corn chips do (GI 42), but they are also very high in fat and added salt.

Corn NIP