Sandburg's Hometown

August 4, 2014

Peaches and Cream - watercolor - Mary E. Phillips (with permission of the artist)
Peaches and Cream - watercolor - Mary E. Phillips
(with permission of the artist)

Sweet Corn

by Barbara Schock

This is the time of year when people eat corn on the cob. It might be cooked for three to five minutes in boiling water or grilled over a charcoal fire. Some apply plenty of butter before eating and others like chili pepper sprinkled on the kernels.

Growing up in a prairie town Carl Sandburg was very familiar with fields of corn growing all around Galesburg. His mother may have prepared what was called green corn by removing the husk and silk and placing it in boiling water. Cookbooks published in the nineteenth century suggest boiling the ears of corn for 10 to 20 minutes. These directions may have applied to field corn which was harvested before it was completely ripe.

Corn and beans were cooked together with butter and salt. The dish was called succatash. Corn oysters were made by cutting the kernels from the cob and mixing them with a beaten egg, a little flour and salt and pepper. The batter was cooked on a hot, greased griddle. Corn pudding was made with the kernels cut from the ear, combined with eggs, cream and butter and baked in a casserole.

Humans have been eating corn for about ten thousand years. The tall grass ancestor first appeared in Mexico. It became so important in the diet of the natives, it was included in their religious practices and called “Mother Corn.”

Those native Americans used corn to make medicines for various ailments. They wove the leaves into mattresses for sleeping, baskets and moccasins. Many of the early European explorers discovered the food and its uses when they reached this hemisphere.

The Pilgrims probably would have starved if the Native Americans had not shown them how to grow and prepare corn for food. Corn contains a number of B vitamins, protein, carbohydrates and dietary fiber. The Pilgrims called it Indian corn to distinguish it from other grains. In England wheat seeds were known as corn.

Sweet corn is a natural mutation of field corn and has more sugar in the kernels. It is picked at the milk stage of maturity before the kernels become tough and starchy. The first sweet corn was grown in Pennsylvania in the 1700s.

In this country, we consume about 8 pounds of sweet corn per person per year. Much of the sweet corn crop is canned or frozen so we can enjoy it the year around. Since the 1950s corn geneticists at the University of Illinois and other research institutions have developed super-sweet corn and by-color corn for consumers. These hybrids stay fresh longer and can be purchased in grocery stores and roadside stands during the season. We are fortunate so much sweet corn is grown in the Midwest.

Carl Sandburg closed his poem Prairie with this line: “I am a brother of the cornhuskers who say at sundown: Tomorrow is a day.” The complete poem was published in Poetry Magazine in July 1918.


Sandburg's Hometown
Date Title
August 4, 2014 Sweet Corn
July 28, 2014 Marching Through Georgia
July 21, 2014 The Knox County Fair
July 14, 2014 The Panic of 1893
July 7, 2014 The Rev. T. N. Hasselquist
June 30, 2014 The Knox County Courthouse
June 23, 2014 The Family Photograph Album
June 16, 2014 Parades
June 9, 2014 Lingonberries
June 2, 2014 Where We Live
May 26, 2014 Old Main
May 19, 2014 Rhythms of the Railroad
May 12, 2014 Spring Tonic
May 5, 2014 The Milkmen
April 28, 2014 Gray's "Elegy..."
April 21, 2014 Off to War
April 14, 2014 Swedish Easter
April 7, 2014 A Father's Face
March 31, 2014 Secret Societies
March 24, 2014 George A. Murdock, Merchant
March 10, 2014 Trade Cards
March 3, 2014 The Demorest Medal
February 24, 2014 Rip Van Winkle
February 17, 2014 Cabbage Soup
February 10, 2014 Lincoln's Birthday
February 3, 2014  The Colonel
January 27, 2014 The Lincoln Penny - A Little History
January 20, 2014 Walking to Work
January 13, 2014  A Small Abode
January 6, 2014 Birth of a Poet
December 30, 2013 Christmas 1880
December 23, 2013 Swedish Christmas
December 16, 2013 The Reporter Sees Santa
December 9, 2013 The Coming of Christmas
December 2, 2013 The Fire Boys Talk
November 25, 2013 Galesburg Will Feast on Turkeys and Cranberries - Thanksgiving 1893
November 18, 2013  Mary Sandburg Johnson
November 11, 2013 Carl Sandburg's Bicycle
November 4, 2013  Lace Curtains 
October 28, 2013 The Front Room
October 21, 2013 A Warm Breakfast
October 14, 2013 Marion D. Shutter
October 7, 2013 Cigars and Consumption
September 30, 2013 Forrest F. Cooke & August Sandburg
September 16, 2013 Forrest F. Cooke, Mayor
September 9, 2013 Dusty Streets
September 2, 2013 Typhoid Fever
August 26, 2013 Coffee and Water
August 19, 2013 A Horse! A Horse!
August 12, 2013 Gaddial Scott
August 5, 2013 The Racetrack
July 29, 2013 John Peter Algeld - Part II
July 22, 2013 John Peter Altgeld - Part I
July 15, 2013 Tramps, Tramps, Tramps
July 8, 2013 Lady Liberty
July 1, 2013 Galesburg's Fourth
June 24, 2013 John H. Finley
June 17, 2013 The World's Columbian Exhibition
June 10, 2013 Fruit Short-Cake
June 3, 2013 Horatio Alger, Author
May 27, 2013 Memorial Day, 1887
May 20, 2013 Professor Jon W. Grubb
May 13, 2013 Beginnings of Lombard University
May 6, 2013 Young Sandburg’s View of Lombard College
April 29, 2013 Thinking
April 22, 2013 Robert Colville, Master Mechanic
April 15, 2013 The Galesburg Opera House
April 8, 2013 Grocery Stores and Sample Rooms
April 1, 2013  A Hearty  Breakfast 
March 25, 2013  The Lost Wallpaper Legend 
March 18, 2013 Martin G. Sandburg
March 4, 2013 The Edison Talking Machine
February 25, 2013 Joe Elser, Civil War Veteran
February 18, 2013 Remember the Maine...
February 11, 2013 Lincoln's Birthday
February 4, 2013 Curiosity