Can You Eat the Cob of Corn?

Many people across different cultures love corn on the cob. It is one of the top 10 most eaten foods on the fourth of July which is America’s Independence Day. Although they can be eaten raw, ears of corn are usually prepared or cooked by steaming or boiling, roasting, grilling, or frying. According to Wikipedia, the term “corn on the cob” is the culinary term used to refer to a cooked ear of freshly picked maize from a cultivar of sweet corn, sweet corn being the most common variety of maize eaten directly off the cob. 

For corn lovers like me, it seems like a waste to ditch the cob after biting the kernels off, and I often wonder, “can corn cob be prepared in a way that it would be edible, or compost the best bet? 

If you’re here- reading this, I won’t be wrong to guess that you want to know if you can eat the cob of corn or if it is safe to eat the cob of corn. Here, you will get to know if you can eat the cob of corn and if not, what you can do with those cobs.

Can You Eat the Cob of Corn?

The edibility of corn cobs is dependent on the maturity of the corn. While you can eat the cobs of the tiny stir-fry corn, also called baby corn (young ears) because they are still young and tender, you cannot eat the cob of mature corn. It is so because, as the plant matures, the cob gets tougher until only the kernels are edible.

Not to worry, there are several other ways you can put corn cobs into use. Read some of the uses of corn cobs below.

Uses of Corn Cobs

Although you cannot eat the cob of corn (mature corn), they still have plenty of applications both at home and industrially. Here are some of those uses:

  1. Corn cobs absorb moisture and provide a compliant surface, hence, they are used as bedding for animals. For example; in many homes, corn cobs are ground up and washed, then re-dried again to make cat litter.
  2. You can boil corn cobs with some spices and make corn stock out of them. Alternatively, you can add them to other summertime vegetables to make vegetable stock.
  3. Prepare corn cob jelly.
  4. Use cobs as pot scrubbers or household cleaning materials.

Are Corn Cobs Digestible?

No, corn cobs are not digestible. They are composed of cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin (primary substances which make up the cell walls of plants), which are largely indigestible.

What Happens If You Eat Corn Cob?

If a person eats a whole corn cob (which seems quite impossible anyway), it would get stuck and block the airway, choking the person to death. On the other hand, if you swallow small pieces of a corn cob without chewing them, they can injure the digestive tract and may lead to intestinal obstruction.

However, if a person manages to chew pieces of corn cob for as long as it would take to turn to paste, it would just pass through the digestive tract like any other fibrous food, providing bulk but little nutrients.

Nutritional Value of Corn Cobs

Corn cobs, while not as commonly eaten as the kernels, are actually a good source of nutrition. They are rich in fiber, which is important for maintaining a healthy digestive system and reducing the risk of constipation. In addition, they contain vitamins and minerals that can support overall health and wellbeing.

One of the most notable nutrients found in corn cobs is fiber. A single medium-sized ear of corn can contain up to 3 grams of fiber, which is around 10% of the recommended daily intake. This fiber can help to promote feelings of fullness and satiety, which can be helpful for weight management. It also helps to support the growth of healthy gut bacteria, which can have a positive impact on overall health.

Corn cobs also contain important vitamins and minerals, such as potassium, magnesium, and folate. Potassium is important for regulating blood pressure and maintaining healthy heart function, while magnesium is important for bone health and muscle function. Folate is a B-vitamin that is essential for healthy cell growth and development, making it particularly important for pregnant women.

In comparison to corn kernels, corn cobs are slightly lower in calories and carbohydrates, but higher in fiber. This means that while they may not provide as much immediate energy as the kernels, they can help to support long-term health and wellbeing by promoting healthy digestion and preventing chronic disease.

Potential Risks of Eating Corn Cobs

While corn cobs can provide a variety of health benefits, there are also some potential risks associated with consuming them.

One of the most significant risks of eating corn cobs is the possibility of choking. The cob can be difficult to chew and swallow, especially if it is not cooked properly or if the person eating it is not careful. To reduce the risk of choking, it is important to cut the corn off the cob or to chew the cob thoroughly before swallowing. It is also important to supervise young children when they are eating corn cobs to ensure they are chewing and swallowing safely.

Another potential risk of eating corn cobs is digestive issues. Corn cobs contain a tough outer layer that can be difficult for some people to digest, especially if they have sensitive stomachs or digestive disorders. Eating too much corn cob at once can also cause stomach discomfort, bloating, and gas. To reduce the risk of digestive issues, it is recommended to consume corn cobs in moderation and to chew them thoroughly before swallowing.

In addition, there is some debate about the safety of consuming corn cobs that have been treated with pesticides or other chemicals. While the risk of harm from consuming these chemicals is generally considered low, it is still important to wash corn cobs thoroughly before eating them and to choose organic or pesticide-free options whenever possible.

It is also worth noting that corn cobs are not a significant source of nutrition compared to other foods. While they do contain fiber and some important vitamins and minerals, they are relatively low in calories and protein. This means that while they can be a healthy addition to a balanced diet, they should not be relied on as a primary source of nutrition.

How to Eat Corn Cobs Safely

To enjoy corn cobs safely, there are a few important things to keep in mind. Here are some tips for preparing and consuming corn cobs:

  1. Choose fresh, high-quality corn cobs. Look for cobs that are plump and firm with tight, green husks. Avoid cobs that are discolored, mushy, or have brown spots.
  2. Wash the corn cobs thoroughly before cooking. Rinse them under running water to remove any dirt or debris.
  3. Cook the corn cobs properly. There are several ways to cook corn cobs, including boiling, grilling, and roasting. Boiling is the most common method, but it’s important to avoid overcooking the cobs, as this can make them tough and difficult to chew. To boil corn cobs, place them in a pot of boiling water for 5-7 minutes, then remove them from the water and let them cool.
  4. Cut the corn off the cob before eating. While some people prefer to eat the corn straight from the cob, it’s safer to cut it off first to reduce the risk of choking. To do this, hold the cob at a slight angle and use a sharp knife to slice downward, cutting the kernels off in strips.
  5. Chew thoroughly before swallowing. To further reduce the risk of choking, it’s important to chew the corn kernels thoroughly before swallowing. This can also help with digestion and nutrient absorption.
  6. Use caution when serving corn cobs to young children. Young children are more susceptible to choking, so it’s important to supervise them closely when they are eating corn cobs. Consider cutting the corn off the cob and serving it in small, bite-sized pieces to reduce the risk of choking.
  7. Enjoy corn cobs in moderation. While corn cobs can provide some important health benefits, they should not be relied on as a primary source of nutrition. Instead, consume them as part of a balanced diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.

By following these tips, you can safely and enjoyably consume corn cobs as part of a healthy diet.

Can Dogs Eat Corn Cobs?

No, it is not advised that you let your dog eat corn cob. While corn cobs do not seem particularly dangerous, they can overwhelm your dog’s digestive tract and cause intestinal obstruction when ingested in large amounts. That is, a large piece of corn cob canblock your dog’s intestines and cause dehydration.

Some common signs of intestinal obstruction in dogs include recurrent vomiting accompanied by strong abdominal contractions, dehydration, loss of appetite, constipation, panic, anxiety, weakness, lethargy, and obvious signs of pain or discomfort. If you notice any of these signs after your dog has mistakenly eaten corn cob, see your veterinarian immediately.

What to Do with Old Corn on The Cob. What Can They Be Used For?

  1. Salads: You can eat old corn on the cob in salads. Simply remove the kernels and toss them on a fresh salad. Alternatively, you can mix the kernels with a small amount of garlic, diced tomato, pepper, salt, and some pumpkin seed oil to make an awesome summer salad.
  2. Corn chowder: You are out of fresh sweet corn? Don’t worry. You can still enjoy your creamy, delicious summer corn chowder using old corn on the cob. It tastes just as great!
  3. Omelet: Throw in some kernels of your old corn on the cob to add color and crunchiness to your omelet.
  4. Cornbread: What’s cornbread without cornmeal? And why would your old corn on the cob remain unused when you can make them into cornmeal for a savory loaf of cornbread?
  5. Corn fritters.

Can You Eat Out of Date Corn on The Cob?

Yes, you can eat corn on the cob that is past its best-by date, provided it has not gone bad or shown any sign of spoilage. Raw corn on the cob can last anywhere from one to three days if stored correctly, however, there are a few techniques you can employ to extend the shelf life.

Read also: Why Can’t You Eat Popcorn with Braces?

How To Extend The Shelf Life Of Corn On The Cob

Although it is best to eat corn within 24 hours of purchasing or harvesting because of its short freshness period, in case you can’t eat it within that time frame, you can extend its shelf life in the following ways.

  1. Store raw corn on the cob with the husks still intact as this will allow the corn to last longer. However, if you have already removed the husks, you can wrap it in plastic wrap or foil to ensure that the corn on the cob will last just as long as it would with the husks on.
  2. To store cooked corn on the cob, keep in an airtight bag and store it in the refrigerator. 
  3. You can also freeze your corn on the cob or remove the kernels from the cob and freeze.

Read also: Is Corned Beef Good for Diabetics?

Do humans fully digest corn?

Humans do not fully digest corn. Corn contains a high amount of cellulose, a complex carbohydrate that is difficult for the human body to break down. As a result, a significant portion of the corn that we consume passes through the digestive system undigested. This can be seen in the stool as visible corn kernels.

However, despite the fact that we do not fully digest corn, it can still provide important nutritional benefits. The fiber in corn can help to support healthy digestion and prevent constipation. Corn also contains important vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C, magnesium, and potassium, which can support overall health and wellbeing. So while it may not be fully digested, corn can still be a healthy addition to a balanced diet.

How much corn is OK to eat?

The amount of corn that is okay to eat can vary depending on individual dietary needs, health status, and personal preferences. However, as a general guideline, it is recommended to consume corn in moderation as part of a balanced diet.

According to the USDA, one serving of corn is about 1/2 cup or one small ear of corn. This serving size contains approximately 15 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, and 3 grams of protein. It is important to note that corn is relatively high in carbohydrates and calories compared to other vegetables, so it is best to consume it in moderation.

Additionally, if you have certain health conditions or dietary restrictions, it may be necessary to limit your intake of corn. For example, if you are following a low-carbohydrate or low-calorie diet, you may need to limit your intake of corn. Similarly, if you have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, you should avoid corn that has been cross-contaminated with gluten-containing grains.

How to Tell If My Corn on The Cob Has Gone Bad

You can tell if the corn on the cob you purchased (or harvested from your farm) has gone bad by observing the husks and silks of the corn. Normally, the husk should be green, not brown, and the silks should be pale yellow. Any other color could indicate spoilage 

You can also tell if your corn on the cob is going bad by looking at the tip. A dark tip is an indication that the corn is old, and mold growth will often begin to form on a moist tip. You should discard the corn if you notice any mold growth on the tip or any other part of the corn on the cob. Also, you shouldn’t eat the shriveled kernel, it shows that the corn is past its prime. Any odd taste or flavor, as well as the sliminess of the kernels, indicate spoilage. 

Although you can eat the cob of corn when it is still immature (baby corn), it is unnecessary to eat the cob of mature corn as all the nutrients you need can be gotten by eating the kernels alone. If you are like me and you feel the cobs shouldn’t go to waste, you can put the cobs into good use as in any of the ways I described in this article.

By Luong Tan

Luong Tan, the creative and passionate founder of Bourbono, is a multi-talented individual with a deep love for the culinary arts. An accomplished food blogger, cookbook author, and former Ambassador of US cuisine in Vietnam (2015-2016), Luong has been on a mission to share his appreciation for food with the world.

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