On June 19th, I wrote about the official Juneteenth holiday. Today I’m sharing a memory that surfaces every year when June 19 comes around.
In my corner of the world, Juneteenth marks the time corn is ripe and ready to eat. Although most people prefer sweet corn, my family ate field corn–roasting ears, commonly pronounced ros’nears–the same kind cattle eat after it’s dried. Considering the amount we ate or froze to eat (usually sheared off the cob and served creamed) after the season ended, it’s a wonder there was any left for the cows.
My father’s uncles grew corn. When it was ready, we made a pilgrimage (or two or three . . . ) to the cornfield on Uncle Maurice’s place. Picking was an itchy job. The men usually took care of that. Shucking and removing silk was no picnic either, but everyone participated. I helped shuck (also an itchy job) and silk, but I wasn’t strong enough to chop the stem end off. More to the point, my chopping technique lacked accuracy, so I was best occupied elsewhere.
The variety was Yellow Dent–so-called because the kernels have “an indentation in the crown of each kernel.” Wikipedia helped me with crown; I didn’t know the word. (I use capital letters in the name because the it deserves them.)
Field corn has a heavy, musky taste; or maybe it’s musty. Neither word is correct, but they’re the best I can do. No matter–boiled, slathered with butter and covered with a sprinkling of salt, it’s delicious.
Several years ago, I mentioned Yellow Dent to some of the teacher-farmers I worked with; they’d never heard of it. I assumed that over the years it had been replaced by hybrids. A paragraph in Wikipedia corrected the assumption:
Most of the corn grown in the United States today is yellow dent corn or a closely related variety derived from it. Dent corn is the variety used in food manufacturing as the base ingredient for cornmeal flour (used in the baking of cornbread), corn chips, tortillas and taco shells. Starch derived from this high-starch content variety is turned into plastics, as well as fructose which is used as a sweetener (high-fructose corn syrup) in many processed foods and soft drinks.
So Yellow Dent is still with us, serving a number of worthwhile purposes.
Its widespread use in the American diet has brought corn under scrutiny in recent years. Corn syrup is widely used as a sweetener and is an ingredient in many refined foods. According to the U. S. Department of Agriculture, in 2001, Americans consumed 62.6 pounds of high-fructose corn syrup. Corn is also used as cattle- and chicken feed, and is indirectly responsible for the high doses of antibiotic given to cattle. Scientific American, citing a 2008 study in which researchers analyzed meat from hamburgers and chicken sandwiches produced by three separate fast food companies in six cities across the United States, reported that “93 percent of the tissue that comprised the hamburger meat was derived from corn.” More recently, it’s been linked to the obesity epidemic.
Other sources claim that health problems arise from a diet rich in processed foods containing products derived from corn. One nutritionist says,
When eaten in an unprocessed way and properly prepared, non-GMO whole corn kernels actually have some impressive nutrients to offer . . . For example, organic corn is a vitamin C food, magnesium-rich food, and contains certain B vitamins and potassium. It also supplies a good dose of two antioxidants linked to eye and skin health called zeaxanthin and lutein. Eating fresh corn on the cob also gives you a good amount of the daily dietary fiber you need, along with some complex carbohydrates that are a good energy source.
A friend recently remarked that ours is the last generation to eat “real food.” The corn I remember wasn’t organic, but it was real food. And it makes for happy memories.
7 thoughts on “Memories of July 19: Ros’nears”
I’ve eaten a lot more store-bought corn than any other kind. My farming relatives insisted that field corn had to be boiled (never more than 3 minutes) and consumed within an hour of picking. To me, field corn eaten fresh tastes as good as fresh sweet corn. I’ve grown my own sweet corn, but my first foray was unfortunate. I planted a row of sweet corn and, next to it, a row of popping corn. My dad laughed so hard when he saw what I’d done. The cross-pollenated result was interesting, but not edible. Each kernel had a black spike sticking up. I don’t know if cows could even have eaten it.
I saw a picture of corn with black spikes on the kernels! Last night, while I was looking for pictures. So–a new goal: finding that picture again. I’ve eaten more store-bought creamed corn than whole kernel. I don’t care much for whole kernel corn. Cafeterias at schools I went to served it often (a government thing, I assume), and a lot of it seemed to be left on plates–if the teacher monitoring the exit didn’t see it. I was never sent back to eat more, but a lot of the boys were. When my great-uncle and aunt drove through the Midwest on the way to the Chicago World’s Fair, they stopped to talk to some farmers in a corn field–they said they’d never seen such large ears. The farmers gave them some, my aunt hung them in the garage to dry, and when she went to take them down, they were just shucks and ears–something had eaten the kernels but left the rest intact. When David and I drove across Illinois the first time, I saw what the books were talking about-cornfields that go on and on and on.
Yep, that’s where I grew up. I was afraid to ever go very far into a corn field. If you do, you might never come out.
Couldn’t resist replying to this one – soooooo many memories brought to mind! One of my favorite ones being the many times Betty and I would go out to neighbor (Mr. Gail Ellison’s) cornfield with his children, Marjorie and Kenneth, pull ears of corn off and eat the corn off the cob right then and there! ‘Twas delicious – and always bought a scolding from your grandparents – my mother and daddy. Promptly went in one ear and out the other! Like you, your mother (Crystal), Betty and I shucked and ate many a cooked roas’n ear to the delight of our tummies, as well as preparing them for Mother to can. Those were truly the “good ole days”! Aunt Barbara
I grew up on stories of y’all and Marjorie and Kenneth Ellison, but I never heard about eating corn in the field. Thanks for sharing it. Maybe I can get it into a story.
MEN! Jim told me you obviously meant “Juneteenth” in previous blogs. I agreed but said the rest of us knew what you meant! Oh, well, what can a mother say?? NOW you have me wondering what else Crystal told you about her little sisters and their friends! I’m sure it must have something to do with the creek (where we were not supposed to go – and did!), etc. We each had a great time – in different ways because of the age difference, I’m sure. Crystal did a great job of helping corral Betty and me – even after I was grown and had entered the working age! I hope she knew how much I did appreciate it – perhaps I never did tell her enough? Anyhow, I do enjoy your bloggy memories. Barbara
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