My American Heritage Dictionary of the English language defines "eclipse" as "a partial or complete obscuring ... of one celestial body by another." Eclipse also means "to surpass or outshine," as in "the total solar eclipse on August 21 eclipsed all my expectations."
Of course the visitors and guests we welcomed to the Nebraska Sandhills made this event even more memorable. My house was full of Germans and Californians ... quite a party.
For one event, my daughter asked us to go pick fresh sweet corn from her friend's nearby field. So there we were -- truly outstanding in farmer Green's field -- sampling his four different varieties of sweet corn. And that's when we realized, the best corn is right off the stalk -- no butter, salt or even cooking required.
Sweet corn, I learned from the Nebraska Corn Board, is higher in natural sugars than what's known as field corn -- the variety grown mainly for animal feed and ethanol (fuel) production. Corn's sugars gradually turn to starch as corn ages, however. Best to eat it as close to just-picked as possible.
Nutritionally, corn is a starchy vegetable along with peas and potatoes. One large ear (8 to 9 inches) contains about 150 calories and about 30 grams of total carbohydrate. A large ear is roughly a "one cup serving" of a starchy vegetable. And the latest dietary guidelines for Americans recommends we spread out our intake of starchy vegetables to 4 to 5 cups each week.
Corn gets its yellow pigment from a powerful antioxidant called lutein ("loo-teen"). Sort of like the special glasses we wore to watch the solar eclipse, researchers have found that lutein helps protect the eyes from the sun's damaging rays. Studies have shown that lutein may also help reduce the risk for age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts. Compared to other vegetables, corn and corn products contain some of the highest amounts of this protective substance.
Another variety of corn to which I am personally addicted is popcorn. Each kernel of this type of corn, says the Nebraska Corn Board, "contains a small amount of water stored inside a circle of soft starch. When the kernel heats up in the microwave, air popper or on the stove, the water expands until the kernel bursts open." We Americans consume 16 billion quarts of this whole grain snack every year, much of it on Nebraska Cornhusker game day.
We rural foodies picked and shucked about 200 ears of sweet corn that day ... in between nibbles of course. The next day we beheld the most amazing heavenly show I may ever see in my lifetime. As they say in Nebraska, it truly is a good life.
(Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator affiliated with Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula. She is the author of "Quinn-Essential Nutrition" (Westbow Press, 2015). Email her at to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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