The magnificent mealie, once refined, has become the prime-cause of obesity and diabetes in South Africa. Utterly tasteless one has to ladle on the salt and sugar, adding to the problem.
Is it not ironic that one of the most delicious, nutritious and readily-available foods grown in South Africa has also been one of the prime causes of the downward spiral of our wellness? And has thus lead indirectly to the tragic death of so many from Covid? More than half of those dying from the virus are obese or diabetic.
Corn is so inexpensive; let me explain.
One seed of an open-pollinated variety like Border King costs about 5c. Planted in your garden, five rand will supply you with a mealie a day for 3 months. Having just enjoyed a cob almost daily for the last summer, I can assure you that it fills a gaping void. Nobody eating fresh corn need be hungry.
Enjoy a green mealie and a salad; with a bit of cheese, chicken or hummus. You will know that you have had an elephant-sufficiency.
There’s much talk these days about the microbiome; those friendly bugs in the gut that have a very important function in our overall well-being. They are utterly dependent on the fibre in food that resists digestion in the small intestine but reaches the colon.
are a rich supply of this insoluble starch which also helps with
another nasty; constipation. Pick the cob when it is young;
chew it slowly and thoroughly after steaming for five minutes.
Green mealies are particularly rich in two carotenoids called lutein and zeaxanthin that help prevent macular degeneration and cataracts. And another, ferulic acid, that contributes to the regulation of blood sugar and cholesterol. The germ has many important vitamins, minerals and important oils; and some protein.
A little butter actually helps with the absorption of some of these phytochemicals, and lowers the glycemic-index; but of course adds to the calories. The olive oil on your salad would achieve the same purpose.
In short corn on the cob is affordable, highly-nutritious and readily available.
But grind that magnificent mealie, extract the germ and bran, and you have a deadly pap with no more nutrition than cake-flour; and because it has lost its flavour, demands several spoonfuls of sugar.
Refined mealiemeal is a killer; it should not be considered a food. It has no place in our school feeding-schemes.
Another reason I like mealies is that the stalks make wonderful compost, giving bulk and allowing air into the heap; simply cover it now with greenery such a grass-cuttings.
It is a great shame that the magnificent mealie has been tarred with the same brush as the refined-grain; and is completely banned for those who are banting. One cob contains about 25 grams of total carbohydrate, but only a half is in a digestible form.
Understanding how net carbs work is essential for those suffering from a problem with obesity.
By contrast one cup of refined maize-meal contains 117 grams of carbohydrate all of which is digested in the small intestine; the sugars are absorbed directly into the portal bloodstream from where they are sucked up by the liver.
There the sugars are converted to glycogen and fat; and stored both in the liver and the white adipose tissue. It's a disaster. Steatohepatitis is no fun; there is no medically recognised cure.
It is no coincidence that over the summer enjoying a cob a day I have lost about a kilogram of weight.
I started this column with the title, "O die mielie is een wonderlike ding." Truth be told, you have to work quite hard to find whole grains today; those that are not highly-refined. I wouldn't be surprised if you have cornflakes and maizemeal in the pantry, but I wonder how many of you reading this have actually eaten just one cob this summer?
The research is strong that whole grains lower the risk of heart disease and diabetes; but refined maize meal is junk food of the highest order. Don’t touch it unless you can get it freshly-milled from the farmer which alas is unlikely.
This is the real deal. Unless you have an uncle in the milling business you are unlikely to be able to buy the freshly-ground wholegrain meal.
It is sold at Reko farmers' market in Hilton in the Midlands of South-Africa. Can you guess who the miller is?
"Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you're a thousand miles from the corn-field."
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Informed opinion seems to be so divided on the subject of genetically-modified food, and I confess to being utterly unsure where the truth
lies. Eventually it will come out. Meantime I'll stick to the heirloom
magnificent mealie varieties.
As a general rule though I'm suspicious of
modern agriculture and big companies like Monsanto and Bayer. Open-pollinated Border King from the garden tastes great, is very cheap and there is no
anxiety; so why pay a fortune for GM maize? It does mean some weeding
until cover is reached.
A Winterton farmer planted a large circle under a pivot, one half to GM maize, and the other to an open-pollinated variety.
One night his cattle broke a fence down to get
to the fodder; they made a real meal of one sector, but didn't touch the other. I will leave you to draw your own conclusions.
I know the corn I feed to my chickens is genetically modified, and it's very clear that they only eat it under protest. I have a new non-GM source directly from the farmer; I will be reporting how they take to it in the future. Ironically it will be cheaper.
It's time for an update. Yes, indeed, we now have non-GM yellow mealies; the flavour is definitely improved but that may be because of the colour. We have not yet tried it on the hens, using up old stock.
I suspect that we will conclude that cattle and bird-brain hens have more sense than humans.
Corn in flower is the promise of months of wonderful food in the not too distant future.
Here's an update. It is now the end of the season and we have eaten at least a cob of corn each day, and often several more, for three months. We have both lost a little weight. It is only an anecdote of no scientific value but I contest the belief of the keto folk who seem to believe that all carbs are very bad for us. What is more our "MetS" measurements are perfect.
That stands for Metabolic Syndrome; hypertension, fasting blood glucose and lipid profiles.
Nearly a third of South Africa's children are permanently stunted, mentally or physically; and 13% are overweight or obese. Can we afford to neglect malnutrition?
What's potting in your summer vegetable garden? Are your children stunted?
Of course, water scarcity in the world threatens not just the magnificent mealie but the well-being of a great many children in South Africa. Our solution has been to build an underground reservoir so we can harvest and store the rain; we have used the municipal supply for only two months in twelve years at the height of various droughts.
Our green garden has an abundant supply of pristine, unchlorinated water for irrigation.
Nor does it have any TCMs, fingered as the cause of the fastest growing neurological illness in the world; Parkinson's Disease. It is piped into our home; we drink it every day.
The magnificent mealie is a delicious, inexpensive and nutritious food. It does take nearly ten minutes to eat a cob. Don't hold that against it; researchers have found that if we chew our food thoroughly it delays the onset of dementia significantly.
Nine percent of Americans over 65 now have Alzheimer's Disease.
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