Yum, corn! As a kid seeing corn on your plate may have meant a good vegetable day, but is corn actually a vegetable? Get the scoop on corn and find out the cold hard facts about the plant so many of us love to eat.
Corn is an enigma. Why? Corn does not grow wild or naturally as we know it anywhere on the planet. Scientists have done research on corn in attempts to figure out the puzzle of where it came from. A theory that's recently developed is that corn adapted from a type of Mexican grass known as teosinte. This potentially wild precursor to the corn we know and love is a skinny, grass-like plant that contains about twelve kernels inside a hard shell or casing.
Corn is harvested in October and is considered the most widely grown crop in America, according to the Whole Grains Council. There are many types of corn available. Sweet corn is the corn most of us are used to eating. It is often eaten off the cob in the summer, slathered in butter, salt and pepper. A popular Latin style of corn, called Crazy Corn, is gaining popularity in the United States. This corn is grilled on the cob, buttered, layered with mayonnaise, salt, pepper and tons of queso, a fresh Mexican cheese, and lastly sprinkled with lime juice.
Is corn a vegetable? The answer depends upon who you ask. Sounds strange, right? That's because corn is a complex food, and depending upon how you look at it, the classification of corn will be different. The Whole Grains Council classifies corn as a vegetable, while dry corn, like popcorn, is considered a grain. The University of Connecticut's College of Agricultural Sciences claims that corn is the holy trinity-a vegetable, a grain and a fruit. Botanically, corn is a fruit in the sense that grains such as corn and wheat are the dried fruit of a plant. Corn is a vegetable when harvested early and eaten fresh, like corn on the cob or steamed corn kernels. If corn is dried and then harvested, it is considered a grain, and now we're back to popcorn and also cornmeal and the products thereof.
Clear as mud
Is corn a vegetable? This question is the perfect trivia question because the answer is so confounding. Corn is rightly contested due to its unusual multiple classifications. The University of Connecticut states a vegetable is a plant cultivated for an edible part or parts, such as roots, stems, leaves, flowers, or seeds or fruit. To confuse the issue further, all cereal grains can be classified as vegetables, but for simplicity's sake they're separated from the rest of the vegetables by their name.