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Milberger's Nursery and Landscaping
3920 North Loop 1604 E.
San Antonio, TX 78247

Three exits east of 281, inside of 1604
Next to the Diamond Shamrock station
Please click map for more detailed map and driving directions.

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Questions for the Week

Instructions For Roasting Corn

click here for step-by-step photos and instructions for roasting corn
by Jerry Parsons, Ph.D.
Horticulture Specialist, Texas Agricultural Extension Service in San Antonio

This is the good-eating time of the year! All of those sinfully good-to-eat items are abundantly available in a face-slapping-fresh form. Of course, fresh tomatoes have to occupy the number one position of taste lust but a close second would have to be corn. Our very thoughts become covetous as we remember that heap of freshly cooked corn steaming with flowing rivers of melted butter streaming through the kernels. Such thoughts beckon our salivary desires and arouse the primitive instincts which we all possess to enjoy some good old down-home eating! Such culinary extravaganzas border on being dietary obscenities of over indulgence which have been banned in certain parts of our society, i.e.,health spas and Weight Watchers. All of the don't-be-fat propaganda that media-mind-molders have to offer cannot persist against the lure of fresh corn.

There are two types of corn available. One is referred to as field corn which is simply that corn which is grown to be ultimately harvested in a dried form for use as an animal feed or to make corn tortillas. This field corn is sometimes harvested in an immature stage (before kernels harden) and sold as field corn roasting ears.

Some folks wonder where that term "roasting ear" originated since most of us boil and eat fresh corn. The nomenclature of "roasting ears" is a carry-over from the "good old days" when pioneers cooked ears of corn by burying them in hot coals. In fact, the dictionary definition of roast is "to cook over an open fire or in hot ashes." This is something that you may want to try, but you don't have to dig a pit in your yard and build a fire - just use your barbecue grill. Place the corn, shuck (the leaf-like structures which surround the cob and kernel) and all, on the grill. If you want to slow cook it, don't put them directly over the hot coals. Don't worry about burning the shucks; most people (with the exception of Gerald Ford) remove the shuck before eating the corn. The fun part is to try shucking the corn, removing the silks and buttering the kernels before your hands receive third degree burns from the sultry ear. If your loved ones think that cooking corn before removing shucks is barbaric and unsanitary, inquire how many of these complainers have eaten tamales - they are cooked in corn shucks too. The second classification of edible corn available is sweet corn. Sweet corn is different from field corn. The sweetness of sweet corn is genetically controlled to be greater than that of field corn types. Some people actually feel that sweet corn is too sweet but I think that if the truth were admitted, most of those who prefer field corn rather than sweet corn prefer the larger-size field corn ear and the more-for-the-money buy. Field corn also offers an option to those who need a diet containing extra roughage, i.e., the quality of the corn is such that you can eat cob, kernel and all without noticing a discernable difference! Some people don't even shuck it!

Almost all the sweet corn varieties developed since the mid 1930's, when hybrid sweet corn was first introduced, until the last few years, are of this type. These hybrids have been called "normal," "standard," regular," "ordinary," or "common," but we'll call them "sugary." The reason for this is that they get their sweetness from the sugary (su) gene. Field corn seed doesn't have this gene and it stores energy for the germinating embryo by depositing starch in the endosperm. The starch in field corn is made from sugars, mainly sucrose, that are manufactured in the leaves as a product of photosynthesis and translocated to the seed during the grain filling stage. All types of sweet corn disrupt this process of starch synthesis, resulting in the accumulation of sugar in the endosperm that isn't rapidly converted into starch. This is what makes sweet corn sweet instead of starchy. Sugar molecules are shorter than starch molecules which are actually long, complex chains of sugar molecules. These shorter molecules pack more tightly when corn is dried down and this is what gives sugary seed its characteristic wrinkled, glassy appearance.

WATER SOLUBLE POLYSACCARIDES (WSP's). Another unique characteristic of the sugary gene (su) is that it causes water soluble polysaccharides (WSP's) to be deposited in the endosperm. These are special molecules that give "sugary" sweet corns their creamy flavor in addition to the sweetness they get from the sugars. Without these WSP's, corn tastes watery.

HOMOZYGOUS AND HETEROZYGOUS. To get these effects from the sugary gene (su), a kernel has to receive the su gene from both the male and female parents. If a seed gets the same gene from both parents it is called homozygous; e.g. su su. A kernel that is homozygous su su is sweet and creamy.

Why does some sweet corn taste better than other? The answer lies in at what maturity the corn is harvested and how the corn is stored after harvest. Once an ear of sweet corn reaches its prime, the sugar in the kernels is converted rapidly to starch. The rate of this conversion depends upon temperature--the higher the temperature, the faster the conversion. Sweet corn is best if harvested during the cool of the morning. Store non-husked ears in plastic bags in the refrigerator. Maturity of the corn also has an influence on sweetness. Sweet corn will be ready to harvest from 20 to 28 days after the silks first appear. Silks will turn from greenish to brown and dry when the ear is mature. Maturity of the ear can be tested by opening the husk, rupturing the kernel and examining the endosperm. If the endosperm (juice of the kernel) is milky, the corn is ideal. If the endosperm is doughy, you may have waited a bit late. However, many people enjoy and prefer "mature" corn; my grandparents prepared doughy corn by cutting off the tips of the kernels with a knife which allowed the endosperm to be easily removed when eating. Such a system also avoids the corn-between-the-teeth syndrome!

Regardless of the kind of corn you purchase, one variable which you encounter will be constant--the worm that eats corn will eat both field corn and sweet corn. We should all respect the worms which we find adorning the tips of our corn. They are very special. As we carefully shuck the ear of corn the worm we discover that has already begun the corn feast without us is really a champion of the species. It, along with hundreds of its kind, was deposited on the corn silks during the dark of the night. The law of the corn silks--survival of the fittest--prevailed and individuals began devouring the closest relatives. When all of the silks stopped shaking, only one remained--the Rambo of worms. To the victor go the spoils--the mean-machine worm eased down through the silks and enjoyed a few kernels. Why do people get so upset when they discover this "hero". The worm is the guardian of purity, i.e., if the corn was contaminated the worm would be dead. The worm is the surefire indication of freshness, i.e., if the corn was old the worm would be pupated into a moth. Look for the worm! It is a hero! It is the sign of freshness and purity!===========================


Ever since Pliny, the naturalist, some 1,900 years ago credited the onion with being the remedy for 28 maladies, including evil spirits, no other food has come down to us with so many miraculous attributes. We may have disproved a hundred old folk tales about onions, but in view of recent medical and scientific experiments, perhaps we have been too hasty.

Onions and garlic oil has been used for many remedies. Removing warts is one example. Rub them on the wart every stinking night. Within a week the warts will dry up, and within three weeks they will disappear entirely. Maybe! They will never return. But neither will your friends. Garlic has been used on boils.

Chewing raw onions will cure a sore throat and cold. Recent medical experiments have proven that the mouth is completely sterilized after chewing raw onions three to eight minutes. Maybe onions can be used for birth control as well!

Not all folklore, medical scientists believe, can be, nor should be, easily dismissed. After all, malaria-stricken Peruvians used to nibble on the bark of a certain tree - today, we obtain quinine from that bark to combat malaria. More than 600 years ago victims of gout ate insignificant little purple flowers from the fields. Today, we use an extract, colchicine, from that very flower as a remedy for gout.

To those who are reluctant to place much curative value in just plain foods, it is well to remember that the lime isn't in the pharmacopeia, but it is a historical fact that this tiny fruit stopped and held in check the dreaded scurvy, the only force that threatened England's mastery of the sea. If the British had used onions, also rich in vitamin C, instead of lime, the vegetable would have been equally effective and famous in checking the disease. In fact, the onion served as a powerful antiseptic in the Dark Ages when plague and pestilence threatened to decimate Europe.
During the Great Plague in the 14th century, the graves of the dead were kept from becoming breeding places by being sprinkled daily with garlic tips. During the First World War epidemics of typhus and dysentery in Europe were fought with garlic. Dr. Albert Schweitzer used garlic against typhus and cholera.

Medical scientists have finally come to recognize the amazing germ killing powers of the onion. Doctors believe that one of the reasons the Italians are seldom bothered by digestive diseases such as colitis, is due to their habit of eating plenty of onions and garlic.

During the last war, Russian experiments proved that there is sound basis for some of the primitive insistence on the healing power of the onion. In the American Review of Soviet Medicine 1944, B. Tokin reported that after 15 years study of the germ killing properties of 150 plants, onions and garlic proved fatal to typhus, white staphylococci, and other bacteria. After exposure to onion vapors for one to three minutes all protozoa were killed.

To prove that onion vapors do have bactericidal properties, two other scientists, Toroptsev and Filatova, of the Tomsk State University in Russia, used the onion on inflamed and often gangrenous soldiers, cases where the amputation of arms and legs had occurred. They exposed the wounds to the fumes of fresh onion paste, renewed at five-minute intervals. After the first treatment all wounds became red instead of the poisonous grey of infected flesh. After the second treatment, purulence ceased and the wounds began to heal.

In the U.S., similar experiments have been conducted. Dr. Carl C. Lindgren, with the University of Southern California, confirmed the belief that the onion has healing powers. His studies involved 16 years of experimentation with the aromatic vegetable. From garlic, the Superman of the onion family which differs from the onion only in being more powerful in its effect, he extracted a substance he called crotonaldehyde which showed favorable results in killing bacteria.

Food chemists have also found that onions possess a strong germicide known as acrolein which is important in preventing tooth decay. A dentist in Poland (Dental Abstracts: April, 1959) had excellent results with the use of garlic oil in treating dental root canals. Patients were called back in 3-18 months, and no changes or occurrences of new symptoms could be found. Garlic was given credit for possessing antiseptic qualities that remain active for long periods of time.

The Glasgow Chronicle reports a case in 1953 of a boy who had dropsy. After an operation the water again gathered. When visitors came to see the boy he indicated a strong desire to eat onions. A friend immediately procured some. A short while after eating them his swelling went down and he began to discharge a great quantity of water. He continued to eat onions every day and apparently was cured.

In the Medical Record, Praxis, German Pharmaceutical Magazine and Review of Gastroenterology appear reports of the beneficial effects of the use of garlic on stomach disorders, especially in the elderly and those with high blood pressure. The relief from nausea, vomiting, gas and after-meal discomfort was sufficiently regular and marked for garlic to merit consideration as a treatment. Using oil of garlic for three weeks, blood pressure was lowered considerably in 40 percent of the patients; and dizziness was cleared up in 80 percent of the cases. Modern physicians have found and have reported that patients placed on garlic dosage speak of a feeling of general well-being and increased vitality after a short time. This possibly may result from the ability of garlic to reduce blood pressure as well as to effect dilation of the blood vessels and detoxification of the entire organism. Patients also reported themselves freed from apprehensions and neuroses previously felt. Garlic, the evidence shows, is definitely a blood pressure regulator. It also favorably influences nervous cardia manifestations, and good results have been obtained in the menopause.

The entire digestive tract is acted upon favorably by tends to detoxify the entire organism, with special influence upon the heart, blood vessels and blood pressure, especially in the aged. This attribute may be responsible for its successful use on excessive tobacco users in chronic nicotine poisoning. The good effects of garlic also extend to the micro-organisms, including intestinal worms.

While no claim is made that onions should be used as a super germ-killing potion, nevertheless they do possess great hygienic value. Paris physicians lately have recommended the onion to relieve and temper the ills of high living. They have found onions extremely effective in relieving patients suffering from uric acid or whenever tired kidneys need help or rest. They were not recommended as any specialized fare, but only to be used in the daily diet.

Of course, no one should have an orgy of onions. It is still recommended to call a doctor when ill. But as a nutritive and protective food, the onion is one of the most valuable vegetables in our diet. Texans have the opportunity of enjoying the best onion varieties - - grown in Texas - - in the world.

Today, there are many varieties of onions grown commercially. These separate into two large groups, the Grano and the Granex. Grano varieties have round, spherical bulbs, while the bulbs of Granex varieties are flattened into more of an oval shape.

Texas is the largest producer of both of these types. Most of the Texas onions are yellow onions, although there are a few red and white onions grown as well. The onions are planted in the fall and grow during the winter for harvest in May and June. All South Texas onions are sweet onions, the most popular of which is the Texas 1015Y. This variety gets its name from its ideal planting date, the 15th of October and its yellow (Y) color. It was bred at Texas A&M University. It tends to grow to much larger sizes than other onions. The Texas 1015Y is much sweeter, too, and in 1985, the 1015Y won the Sweet Onion Challenge as the sweetest raw onion in the nation. Other major varieties grown in Texas are the Y33, which is a Granex, and the 502, which is a Grano. For a complete history of the development of sweet onion in Texas and, eventually, worldwide, see:

For recipes and other interesting facts about onions, see: