What is it? Good question! Corn is a food that is so familiar yet so easily taken for granted, so it makes sense we might suddenly wonder, "Wait - is corn a vegetable or a grain?" The answer is "Yes!" Corn is actually both. It begins as a tall cereal grass with spikes, better known in corn lingo as "ears." On the ears grow grains (corn lingo: kernels). And these components of corn proved incredibly useful for the native cultures of the Americas for centuries upon centuries, serving as shelter, fuel, jewellery, and most importantly as a food staple that could be enjoyed in countless ways. Nowadays, corn turns up in cuisines from all around the world.

What is it good for? The nutritional value of corn will depend on how it is prepared. Naturally, a buttery tub of popcorn will be less good for you than, say, a fresh corn salsa. Consider one medium ear of sweet yellow corn, boiled, with no salt. This treat contains 111 calories, one gram of fat (mostly unsaturated), 3 grams of fibre, and 3 grams of protein. Corn is also a good source of many vitamins and minerals including antioxidant vitamins A and C, as well as folate and magnesium. When choosing corn tortillas and chips, look for products made with blue corn. The darker corn is higher in protein and richer in antioxidants than lighter-coloured corn. Most corn products are safe food options for those following a gluten-free diet, including corn flour, cornmeal, and cornstarch.

What does it taste like? Corn's flavour will also depend on how you prepare it. Fresh corn on the cob - shucked of its green husk and silken tendrils - can be incredibly succulent and sweet, with a refreshing snap as you bite into the kernels. Off the cob, corn is a versatile food. Kernels can be removed from the cob and boiled, toasted, or heat-popped. Corn can also be ground to make flour, meal, or starch, and corn oil is used in cooking. Cream corn or add it to casseroles, soups, guacamoles, salsa, and cold salads. When choosing fresh corn, look for snugly wrapped green husks with plump kernels that ooze milky white when poked. Store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator, but try to eat corn as close to the time of purchase as possible, since the crisp juiciness fades with time.

Amy Toffelmire