Tips for Healthy Living Featuring: Corn

Sharon Stewart, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

Sharon Stewart, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

I’m All Ears

Quick! Get the water boiling, because the freshest and sweetest corn you can buy just arrived at Sigona’s. What makes this corn so unique is space and time: the proximity of the farm, the frequency of the harvest and the time it takes to bring the bounty to Sigona’s.

Corn has a rich history in North America. Also known as maize, corn is a cereal grain that grew wild in what is now modern-day Mexico. The early ears were tiny. About 10,000 years ago Native Americans began breeding them, followed by the settlers and now food scientists producing the bigger, sweeter ears we savor today.

California produces 16% of the nation’s sweet corn, second only to Iowa. It is our biggest cash crop. Starting in the 1950s, yields steadily increased thanks to improved varieties, machinery innovations and better fertilization, as well as improved weed and insect control. Yields peaked in the mid-1980s. Since then, they have decreased due to lower prices, water availability and the higher energy costs of pumping water.

The relationship between Spina Farms and Sigona’s goes back about 40 years when the Sigona family had a roadside fruit stand along Old Monterey Highway. The Spinas had a produce stand nearby, so the two farms have a bond that runs deep.

Spina Farms is just south of us in Morgan Hill, so it’s a quick trip to market. Most other corn is grown a little further away in Fresno. The corn produced by Spinas is a hybrid sweet corn. To keep a steady supply at Sigona’s, the Spinas devote 150 acres to corn, grown in about 15 blocks that they continually plant from mid-March through late July.

A big concern these days is genetically modified corn. Most GMO corn is used for processed foods and animal feed. You can rest assured that even though this corn is the result of hybridization, no genes were spliced in its making.

Nutritionally, corn is low in fat and a good source of fiber. One large ear contains just 123 calories and about 4 grams of dietary fiber. Fiber supports a smooth-running digestive tract and might also cut your risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and some cancers.

The key for the consumer to enjoy the freshest corn is in the timing. When corn is picked, it has a high sugar content, which is what makes it so sweet. However, the sugar starts converting to starch immediately after being picked. In other words, the sooner you eat it, the sweeter it will taste.

Our corn is picked first thing in the morning and delivered to us within four hours – you can’t get any fresher than that! Spina Farms delivers three times a week: Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. So to get the most flavor, buy your corn on one of these days and have it that night!

In choosing corn, you don’t need to peel back the husk. Instead look for corn with tassels that are brown and sticky to the touch. Feel each ear through the husk to check for even plump kernels.

To cook, fill a large pot about 3/4 full with water and bring to a boil. Do not add salt, as this will toughen the corn. Add the shucked corn and once the water is back to a boil, immediately remove the ears.

Another great way is roasted on the grill. Leaving the corn in its husk, soak the corn in water for about 30 minutes. Then put it on the grill, turning every 5 minutes or so to cook evenly. It will be done when the husks have dried and started to blacken and the color of the kernels has intensified, (about 25 minutes). Shuck the corn after cooking. The silk comes away with the husk.

Or try spritzing it with olive oil and sprinkle it with fresh herbs such as dill or cilantro. Another fresh way is to squeeze lime juice and for an extra kick add a sprinkle of cayenne.

I can hear the crunch of biting into an ear now, yummy!



Sharon Stewart is our latest and greatest Tips for Healthy Living writer. Sharon Stewart is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN). She offers personalized, one-on-one nutrition counseling in the Palo Alto area. She specializes in clients with obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and gastrointestinal disorders as well as nutrition check-ups for general well-being. She also works for Plus Health Management, providing nutrition counseling to the employees on the Facebook campus in Menlo Park.  Feel free to contact her over at Sharon Stewart, R.D. Nutrition Consulting.

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