Corn - Zea mays

(indian corn, maize)

Corn is a demulcent and a diuretic. The styles (corn silk) make a good diuretic preparation which helps in urinary problems such as cystitis, pyelitits, oliguria and also in edemous conditions. If kept for too long without being completely dried, corn silk develops purgative properties. The silk makes a harmless and effective dieting food, while an infusion can be used as a non-irritating enema. A corn macerated oil naturally contains tocopherols and lecithins which are excellent for dry skin.

What Europeans call maize or sweetcorn is known in North America simply as corn, and that's what I'm going to talk about here. Corn, a member of the grass family, is the only important cereal native to the New World. Today corn grows on tall stalks with long flat leaves; tucked here and there in the leaves are long torpedo-shaped ears of corn, each of which is encased in a green husk with delicate threads of cornsilk visible at the tips. Strip back the husk and you'll find a cob covered with rows of corn kernels, usually yellow or white, but sometimes also blue, red, brown, or purple.

The origins of corn lie far back in prehistory; recognizable fossilized specimens that are thousands of years old have been found in Mexico. In those ancient times each cob was puny, with just a few kernels on it, and the plant overall was much shorter than the towering plumes of today. Over time, the native populations of Mexico and Guatemala domesticated corn, interbreeding it with the grass teosinte, gradually developing higher-yielding varieties that would be more recognizable to modern eyes. (First Nations people also domesticated squash and beans; collectively, these important food sources are known as the Three Sisters.) From its Latin American roots corn spread throughout the new world and was used by people ranging from modern Canada all the way down to modern Argentina. When Jacques Cartier visited Hochelaga - now Montreal - in 1535, he found a village surrounded by huge corn fields. (Europeans call all grain corn, and distinguished this one from the others by using the moniker Indian corn. The term maize apparently came to us from Christopher Columbus, who was taught it by the first people he encountered in the new world, the Tahino; they called their staple crop something like mahis.)

Today corn grows throughout the Americas as well as in Europe, Asia, and Africa. It is one of the most adaptable grasses known, thriving equally well in the tropics and the northern temperate zone and from sea level to 12,000 feet in altitude. It has growing periods (planting to maturity) extending from 6 weeks to 13 months.

North American First Nations developed the major classes of corn - sweet, popping, flint, flour, and dent - that we still recognize today:

  • Sweet corn is the stuff you're probably eating if you eat corn on the cob. Modern cultivars of corn in fact contain far more sugar than they did even ten years ago and much more than a century ago, and corn keeps getting sweeter. This is because the sugars in corn become starchy as soon as the ear is picked; sweeter corn will maintain its sweet non-starchy character longer when shipped and stored for sale in supermarkets.
  • Popcorn is basically small-kerneled flint corn; it's among the most primitive of the surviving races of corn. Popcorn kernel has a very hard endosperm and a small bit of soft starch; it's dried at a low heat to yield hard kernels ready for popping.
  • Flint corn has a larger kernel with relatively little flour tissue in the endosperm.
  • Flour corn is soft, floury and breaks apart easily.
  • Dent corn is a cross between flint and flour corn and yields high grain, so it is the most grown type of corn. It has a floury internal portion which shrinks and a hard outer portion which doesn't, producing the characteristic dent of the kernel. It's used for wet grinding and making grits and hominy.

All parts of the corn plant are used by people: the kernels of course are prized food; the husks are used as coverings for steamed food such as tamales; the silk makes a diuretic tea; the cobs and stalks are used as fodder. Corn is utilized in the making of a host of products such as bourbon, corn flour, cornmeal, corn oil, corn starch, corn whiskey, cornstarch, and laundry starch

In North America corn is now available all year round, but it'll be most delicious in summer, freshly picked. Look for large ears with bright green snugly fitting husks and golden brown silk. The kernels should be plump, not dry, and come all the way up to the tip of the ear; they should be tightly packed together. Ideally, eat your fresh corn within a day, stripping off the husks and silk just before cooking.

Fresh corn is best enjoyed plunged for no more than a minute in a large pot of boiling water, or up to 2 minutes if you like it a bit softer. Or remove the kernels by holding the cob upright with its bottom end on the counter and running a sharp knife down the cob, removing 3 or 4 rows at a time. They tend to fly around the kitchen, so be sure you're not holding the cob at the edge of your counter. Fresh corn can be eaten raw in salads or lightly sauteed in a little butter and seasoned with salt, pepper, and perhaps a little fresh basil chiffonade. Or, reproduce a popular Thai street food in your own backyard! Soak whole ears of corn, husks and all, in salted water for an hour or so, then barbecue, turning frequently, till hot and aromatic. Peel back the husk (carefully: it's hot) and eat; delicious!

Incidentally, there is a soft black fungus that grows on corn which is known as smut. Though North Americans shun smut, it apparently has a sweet earthy flavour and creamy texture much prized by Mexicans (who call it huitlacoche) and Europeans.

Want to know all about corn? Go to Corn Connection ( and start exploring!

"Corn" is a song commonly associated with campfires and other supposedly wholesome activities. It is, as its name suggests, about corn. As is often the case with such songs, it is actually about more than mere corn and has some epic altruistic message that usually either presents itself at the end of the song or is implicit throughout.

Since there appears to be precisely one website in existence that has the lyrics, one can presume that the song is in the public domain. To that end, it may have never been copyrighted at all.

"Corn" is, unlike other campfire songs, not a round. It does, however, have two distinct vocal parts for use during the chorus (this may vary). When the two parts are used, half the group sings the words while the other half sings wordless harmony. When the chorus is repeated, the halves switch.


What did we do when we needed some corn?
We ploughed and we sowed 'till the early morn.
What did we do when we needed some corn?
We ploughed and we sowed 'till the early morn.
Because our hands are strong; our hearts are young;
Our dreams are the dreams of
(clap) all ages;

I'm just a dreamer
just a-dreamin' along, oh
I'm just a dreamer
just a-dreamin' along
(*Second person or group of people sing "Ah" over this)

What did we do when we needed a town?
We hammered and we nailed 'till the sun went down.
What did we do when we needed a town?
We hammered and we nailed till the sun went down.
Because our hands are strong; our hearts are young;
Our dreams are the dreams of
(clap) all ages;

I'm just a dreamer
just a-dreamin' along, oh
I'm just a dreamer
just a-dreamin' along

What did we do when there was peace to be won?
It's more than one man can do alone.
So we gathered our friends from the planet Earth
To lend a hand at the hour of birth.
We ploughed, we sowed
We hammered and we nailed
We worked all day 'till peace was won1.

I'm just a dreamer
just a-dreamin' along, oh
I'm just a dreamer
just a-dreamin' along.


The song's main theme is hard work, as the lyrics indicate that consistent effort and a can-do attitude can make anything possible. Whether or not this actually means that world peace can be achieved after one day of farming and building remains to be seen. Of course, the main point of songs such as these is not the literal message but the overal sentiments expressed. Unless of course we were wrong the entire time and the song really is about corn.

1The previously mentioned one website that offers the lyrics says the last line of the final verse is "We worked all day 'till peace was REAL!" (complete with capital letters). This is not the lyric I remember from Girl Guides, though someone recently pointed out that we were the 13th City of Laval Guide troupe, and 13 is a very strange number indeed. I'm not sure whether that was intended as a compliment or not.

2One of the Girl Guide leaders (we had three) swore up and down that the song was supposed to end with one last intonation of the word "corn" on the same note that started the song and was the most often repeated note. I only mention it here because it's the only way I ever remember the song ending, and without it it would just trail off after the final chorus. I suppose it was intended as something that would fade out on a recording, but I don't think any recordings exist.

In addition to that, said Girl Guide leader was so adamant that the song end this way that she and one of the others had an impassioned debate about this very issue at the end of one particular meeting. The dissenter claimed that to end the song on "corn" indicated that the song was literally about corn rather than the underlying message of teamwork. The other leader maintained that it cemented corn as a metaphor. It was weird.


Everything thoughtful has a poem.
Everything that takes a steady minute
or is quiet in its doing
has met a poet in the doing of it
and has somewhere there
been described or made note of.

Corn, for example, it being the season.
The stripping of corn
the cleaning of its leaves off
and all the bits
getting ready for the boiling.
Takes a few moments if done well.

There's some fiddling and pulling
some breaking and repetition.
All the while knowing exactly
how many there are left to do this with
and also knowing very well
who else is in the house or out
and could be helping you but are not.

The time goes by.

The yellow glans is revealed
small colonel or otherwise.
And we make those involuntary
last few passes along the shaft
jerking at stray shreds of silk
slowing for a moment and thinking
that God must have cooked corn
the day before he worked on Adam
and sat, no poet He, cleaning
and thinking and cleaning.

End of a hard day.
More work to do.

All of art, creation
is said to be derivative
even if directly from nature.

As Webster 1913 notes corn is the term used to describe keratinized skin typically found on affected toes although they may appear on other body parts as well. Practitioners will distinguish between hard corns which are thick and may be shiny and soft corns which are indeed white and sodden. Many sites state that corns are formed due to pressure or friction, both are the result of poorly fitting footwear. Corns are the result of concentrated pressure while calluses form from friction. Often corns will form on the top of rigid of hammer toes. Since the toe is unable to bend properly the superior surface presses against whatever material the shoe is constructed from.

Protective corn padding is sold at most pharmacies and stores such as Wal-Mart and Target, but unless you resolve whatever is causing the corn these pads will only offer some very temporary relief. Many online sites state that corns and calluses are not a big deal and really nothing to worry about. While they do not normally warrant a trip to the emergency room they are a cause for concern and should not be taken lightly. Do it yourself remedies are great if you know what you are doing, I would stay away from these unless you have the necessary training or letters like RN or MD behind your name.

A podiatrist can safely remove corns and shave down calluses, but unless you remove the source of friction or pressure they are going to come back. Advice given by TheLady in cracked heels and the quick and dirty repair of the sole is sound, avoid turning your corn or callus into a major medical issue by allowing a professional to address it properly. A professional will also be able to confirm that your corn is actually a corn as there is a very different treatment for warts which may look similar to corns.

Recently a friend of mine asked if I would take a look at her mother's feet. Upon inspection I saw the corn between the fourth and fifth toes on her right foot. My friend's mother was informed that surgical removal was her only option. She reported that the corn was extremely painful, her gait is already somewhat compromised due to an artificial hip on her right side, but that should not be causing a corn to form where it had. I am not a podiatrist but her podiatrist had already diagnosed the growth as a corn for us. What bothered me is that none of the professionals my friend's mother saw suggested that her footwear had caused the corn or mentioned that the corn could return if she had surgery but her footwear was not changed.

I had to tell my friend's mother that there wasn't anything I could do for her although I did recommend that she purchase some new shoes as the ones she was wearing were too short and probably not wide enough. In my opinion, this woman has a wide foot, the shoes she had been wearing did not give her toes adequate splay when she walked. Inspection of her footwear revealed that the sides of her feet hang over the edges of her soles which is a great indicator that a shoe is not quite wide enough for a particular foot. My belief is that the narrow shoe vamps compressed her fourth and fifth toes together, causing the corn to form.

My job puts me into a position where I work with people who are involved in foot care, diabetic education, and footwear sales. Periodically I find myself questioning the health care system that delivers goods and services to people. I refer to them as people rather than patients because in my opinion, and this certainly doesn't refer to everyone I work with, but many practitioners are failing to teach people how to shop for shoes that meet their podiatric and pedorthic needs. This educational lack sends an unknown number of people to chiropractors, medical doctors, podiatrists, pedorthists, pharmacists, surgeons, and physical therapists. It causes needless pain and potentially avoidable suffering, however there is more money to be made in surgery and treatments than there is in education. Let the buyer beware is an ancient saying, surgeons and medical professionals are busy, and to be fair to them, many of their patients are interested in immediate pain relief rather than functional medicine which searches for the root cause of why a symptom appears.

What is the answer to the system that rewards unethical practitioners and deprives patients of education they could benefit from? Many people do not know that pedorthic education is out there, since sales people are taught how to sell rather than how to fit. Stores focus on sales and customer service rather than educating both their customers and their sales force. Functional medicine is time consuming and working with a particular foot takes time, especially if there are multiple issues that need addressing. Consumer dollars drive certain models. Until people become fed up with the current model it will continue to damage feet in the interest of fashion which is typically funded by vanity, and ignorance which in turn breeds a contempt for those placed in the role of pedorthic educator. Unless an educator is able to explain things in a neutral, non-threatening manner to people of all ages and intelligence levels, and the focus shifts away from a product driven model to one that teaches people what kind of a foot they have and how to properly shoe it, this cycle will continue indefinitely.

Corn (k?rn), n. [L. cornu horn: cf. F. corne horn, hornlike excrescence. See Horn.]

A thickening of the epidermis at some point, esp. on the toees, by friction or pressure. It is usually painful and troublesome.

Welkome, gentlemen! Ladies that have their toes Unplagued with corns, will have a bout with you. Shak.

The substance of a corn usually resembles horn, but where moisture is present, as between the toes, it is white and sodden, and is called a soft corn.


© Webster 1913.

Corn, n. [AS. corn; akin to OS. korn, D. koren, G., Dan., Sw., & Icel. korn, Goth. karn, L. granum, Russ. zerno. Cf. Grain, Kernel.]


A single seed of certain plants, as wheat, rye, barley, and maize; a grain.


The various farinaceous grains of the cereal grasses used for food, as wheat, rye, barley, maize, oats.

In Scotland, corn is generally restricted to oats, in the United States, to maize, or Indian corn, of which there are several kinds; as, yellow corn, which grows chiefly in the Northern States, and is yellow when ripe; white or southern corn, which grows to a great height, and has long white kernels; sweet corn, comprising a number of sweet and tender varieties, grown chiefly at the North, some of which have kernels that wrinkle when ripe and dry; pop corn, any small variety, used for popping.


The plants which produce corn, when growing in the field; the stalks and ears, or the stalks, ears, and seeds, after reaping and before thrashing.

In one night, ere glimpse of morn, His shadowy flail had thrashed the corn. Milton.


A small, hard particle; a grain.

"Corn of sand." Bp. Hall. "A corn of powder." Beau & Fl.

Corn ball, a ball of popped corn stuck together with soft candy from molasses or sugar. -- Corn bread, bread made of Indian meal. -- Corn cake, a kind of corn bread; johnny cake; hoecake. -- Corn cockle Bot., a weed (Agrostemma ∨ Lychnis Githago), having bright flowers, common in grain fields. -- Corn flag Bot., a plant of the genus Gladiolus; -- called also sword lily. -- Corn fly. Zool. (a) A small fly which, in the larval state, is injurious to grain, living in the stalk, and causing the disease called "gout," on account of the swelled joints. The common European species is Chlorops taeniopus. (b) A small fly (Anthomyia ze) whose larva or maggot destroys seed corn after it has been planted. -- Corn fritter, a fritter having green Indian corn mixed through its batter. [U. S.] -- Corn laws, laws regulating trade in corn, especially those in force in Great Britain till 1846, prohibiting the importation of foreign grain for home consumption, except when the price rose above a certain rate. -- Corn marigold. Bot. See under Marigold. -- Corn oyster, a fritter containing grated green Indian corn and butter, the combined taste resembling that of oysters. [U.S.] -- Corn parsley Bot., a plant of the parsley genus (Petroselinum ssegetum), a weed in parts of Europe and Asia. -- Corn popper, a utensil used in popping corn. -- Corn poppy Bot., the red poppy (Papaver Rheas), common in European cornfields; -- also called corn rose. -- Corn rent, rent paid in corn. -- Corn rose. See Corn poppy. -- Corn salad Bot., a name given to several species of Valerianella, annual herbs sometimes used for salad. V. olitoria is also called lamb's lettuce. -- Corn stone, red limestone. [Prov. Eng.] -- Corn violet Bot., a species of Campanula. -- Corn weevil. Zool. (a) A small weevil which causes great injury to grain. (b) In America, a weevil (Sphenophorus zeae) which attacks the stalk of maize near the root, often doing great damage. See Grain weevil, under Weevil.


© Webster 1913.

Corn, v. t. [imp. & p. p. Corned (k?rnd); p. pr. & vb. n. Corning.]


To preserve and season with salt in grains; to sprinkle with salt; to cure by salting; now, specifically, to salt slightly in brine or otherwise; as, to corn beef; to corn a tongue.


To form into small grains; to granulate; as, to corn gunpowder.


To feed with corn or (in Sctland) oats; as, to corn horses.



To render intoxicated; as, ale strong enough to corn one.


Corning house, a house or place where powder is corned or granulated.


© Webster 1913.

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