Plant of the Week: Corn, the Giver of Happiness

Corn Field
image courtesy of Todd Trapani at

Let’s start the first in my new article series with a plant I’ve come to appreciate so much more ever since I started gardening: corn! I love corn. My love for the delicious, insanely useful veggie has followed me for my entire life. You don’t grow up in the South without corn and, if you did, come to my house. I’ll cook up some corn for you. You deserve it.

I still remember the first time I ate a cob of corn fresh from someone’s garden. Up until then, I had only experienced store-bought corn, which I had believed was the peak of flavor. I was wrong. I was so, so wrong. I don’t know what it was about that cob, but it felt, and I mean this with full sincerity, close to a religious experience. It was perfect. I can’t remember most of my life, most of my happy memories, or most of the things I’ve eaten. I remember that corn. I remember the house and the room and the person who was there with me. I remember how sweet and fresh and crunchy and absolutely, mind-bogglingly perfect it was. I doubt I will ever experience corn the same way again as I did in that moment.

Except…I came close.

This wasn’t a taste or a moment that would become an oddly vivid memory. This was a moment where I had fully believed the elements and bugs in my garden had defeated me and I came out triumphant. Are you familiar with glass gem corn? You should be. It’s an amazing strain of corn that I bought from Native Seeds (not sponsored, but I wish I was). The ears of this popcorn variety that were lovingly cultivated by Carl Barnes of Oklahoma are so vibrant and beautiful that I just had to buy some and try to grow them for myself! Well, long story short, I thought I killed the corn. I had only tried growing corn once or twice before, and I was still unfamiliar with the look of ripe corn. Resigned to my failure, I decided to go ahead and pluck the failed gems and have a look at the carnage.

But there was no carnage.

What I saw there in my hands during a time in my life when I really, really needed a win (so, about a week ago) was a sight so beautiful that it almost felt like I was back in that kitchen with that cob that brought me closer to perfection than I had ever been. It was like I was that guy from Ratatouille flashing back to a single moment that stuck with him for the rest of his miserable existence (that was made not-miserable and whole again by a rat, but I digress). I wish I had saved that cob of beautiful blues and yellows instead of putting the kernels with the others to dry, but the memory will stay with me, and that’s what counts.

My home is now full of corn kernels that are drying for next year, as well as something that has brought a surprising amount of fun to my life: corn husks!

It seems as though the blessings of corn don’t stop. Corn husks, so often overlooked unless you’re making some scrumptious, mouth-watering tamales, are an easy-peasy dollmaking material! Cornhusk dolls are so easy that even I can do it! It’s so fun to transform something that would be thrown away into a lovely doll that can be dressed up any way you want. Bonus points if you use the corn silk as hair for the doll. Now, of course, if you aren’t the creative type, you can use cornhusks and corn silk as kindling to cook up some corncob charcoal.

Hold the phone…corncob charcoal?

You bet your sweet ass corncob charcoal! Turns out, wood and bamboo ain’t the only grillin’ fuels in town! With a big metal barrel, corncobs, and cornhusks (or leaves), you can have yourself a mess of charcoal for next Summer’s BBQ! I haven’t tried this myself (since I don’t have a barrel yet), but the process looks easy enough to be worth it!

Corn is one of those wonders in this world where each and every part can be used for something. Whether its giving a sad twenty-something some good memories (and we need those right now), making delightfully easy dolls, or cooking up some organic fuel, corn brings happiness again and again. Oh, and it tastes amazing. That, too.

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