Corn: Vegetable, Fruit or Grain?Unless, of course, you're Japanese. (Or a Brooklyn Democrat.)
By NICHOLAS CONFESSORE
Lawmakers waded into the treacherous terrain of botany last week.
This year, Senator Michael F. Nozzolio, an upstate Republican, introduced legislation that would make sweet corn the state vegetable. (The bill originated as a class project by students at the Dana L. West High School in Port Byron, N.Y.)
But when the bill came up for debate in the Senate last Tuesday, it quickly earned the disapproval of Senator Martin Connor, a Brooklyn Democrat.
“As everyone knows, corn is a grain,” he said. “And I would propose that we make sweet corn the New York State official grain.”
Technically, Mr. Connor is correct, said Marvin P. Pritts, chairman of the department of horticulture at Cornell University.
“The criteria is whether it comes from the reproductive part of a plant or the vegetative part of the plant,” Dr. Pritts said. “If it comes from the reproductive part of the plant, it’s a fruit. If it comes from the vegetative part of the plant, it’s a vegetable.”
Botanically speaking, corn is a caryopsis, or dry fruit — popularly known as a grain.
Dr. Pritts allowed that corn, like a tomato, is eaten like a vegetable, “so to a normal, everyday person, it’s a vegetable.”
Surprising to me, this whole corn debate seems to be pretty common. The interweb is full of threads about this very topic. (I thought the best explanation I found was "If corn is eaten while the kernels are soft, it is considered a vegetable. When the kernel is dried it is considered a grain." That seems to be confirmed here.)
Oh, and people who say stuff like "corn's a grain. End of story", I say "don't be a prick. Corn's in the produce department".
Also, once again, let me refer you to the food pyramid...
[UPDATE: For the record, I can now understand your skepticism of the Food Pyramid since, according to "Eat, Drink and Be Healthy", it's just plain wrong and, according to "The Omnivore's Dilemma", it's all part of a U.S. Government plot to sell you - you guessed it - more corn.]
But, I will admit, the more you look into food classifications, the more things start to get a little fuzzy.
OK yeah, I understand that potatoes ARE vegetables, but they're like the red-headed step-child of 'em.
And yes, tomatoes are fruits.
And fine, broccoli is a flower. (With mayo.)
So, to cut through the B.S. and to help make your life simpler, I say "screw the Food Pyramid"! Here are my own, easy-to-follow, food definitions and classifications:
Group 1 - MEAT STUFF
Meat: former animal
Poultry: former feathered, flappy animal
Seafood: former swimmy animal
Group 2 - CARB STUFF
Bread: stuff that's, uh... bread. An important part of a balanced sandwich.
Starch: Potatoes and rice. The white portion of a meal.
Group 3 - HEALTHY STUFF
Vegetable: a plant acting as a side dish with meat and a starch.
Fruit: something that could be conceivably be cut up and put into cereal. (Strawberries, yes. Bananas, yes. Tomatoes, ew.)
Group 4 - DAIRY STUFF
Milk - made from a drink that comes out of cows. (Also moms and a handful of other animals but, dude, gross.)