Tag Archives: grain

The bizarre botany that makes corn a fruit, a grain, and also (kind of) a vegetable

This post has been updated. It was originally published on September 24, 2019.

We all know the “is a tomato a fruit?” debate (correct answer: yes, but you still shouldn’t put it in a fruit salad). Now we’d like to bring you a whole new botanical question you never knew you had: Is corn a fruit or a vegetable—or is it a grain?

The answer is more technical than you might think, and to fully understand it you’ll need a little primer on corn biology. So away we go!

A single corn stalk grows several ears (which are the female bits of the plant) and has one tassel up top (which, as you can guess, is the male part). The tassel produces pollen, which is the semen of the plant world. Before those ears look anything like the juicy kernel-covered cob you eat, they’re essentially a hard cylinder covered in hundreds of unfertilized ovules. Each of these ovules grows a single silk, which reaches up and out of the top of the husk, where it dangles in the hopes of catching a bit of pollen on its little sticky hairs. If it does, the silk grows a pollen tube, enabling the male genes to travel towards the ovule and fertilize it. That fertilized ovule will grow into a single kernel.

That only has to happen 400-600 more times to make a whole ear of corn. It also explains why sometimes you get cobs with bare patches—sometimes not every ovule gets fertilized.

Still with me? Good. Here’s why all of this matters.

We differentiate between fruits and vegetables depending on which bits of the plant we eat. If we eat the part derived from the ovaries or other reproductive tissue, we call it a fruit, explains Marvin Pritts, a horticulture researcher and professor at Cornell University. Everything else we call a vegetable. “Corn is a seed derived from the flower/ovary of the corn plant,” he says, “so is technically a fruit.”

More specifically, corn is a caryopsis, which is a type of fruit in which the seed coat is tightly fused with the pericarp (that’s the fleshy bit, like the part of a peach that you eat). This means they don’t have a substantial fleshy layer, helping them dry out well. You might know caryopses better by their common name: grains.

Thus, grains are a type of fruit. And that means corn is both a grain and fruit in the same way that wheat, millet, and oats are.

This brings us back to the final piece of the question: is corn a vegetable? Botanically and scientifically speaking, the answer is no. But here’s the thing: in common parlance, “vegetable” is essentially meaningless because it’s completely arbitrary.

[Related: High-fructose corn syrup vs. sugar: Which is actually worse?]

Think about what comes to mind when you conjure up an image of a vegetable. Some of it is probably accurate—lettuce, carrots, potatoes. But a lot of it is likely wrong. We have this general image of vegetables as all the produce that’s not sweet or super juicy. To most of us a fruit is a thing you can eat straight. You can pick up a peach or an apple and snack on it. You probably wouldn’t just bite into a tomato (though honestly, why not? we eat them raw in slices!) and similarly you at least need to cook corn before you chomp down, and you’d preferably add a little salt and butter.

Unfortunately that’s not a great rule of thumb if you want to be technical about it. You’d also probably roast a pumpkin or blanch peas, but they’re both actually fruits. And conversely we often eat bell peppers raw much like the fruits that they truly are, yet a lot of people lump them into the veggie category.

There’s a decent, if highly philosophical, argument to be made that we should go by the categorization that most people use. If folks think of squashes as vegetables, maybe they are vegetables. The same might go for corn. For his part, Pritts acknowledges that we do eat corn as we do other veggies, but notes that still doesn’t technically make it one. And yet lots of people do consider it a vegetable, including the US Department of Agriculture, and since “vegetable” is an arbitrary, catch-all category, maybe corn is a vegetable too. We’ll leave it to you to decide which definitions you want to abide by—there’s a decent argument for all of them.

Sara Chodosh

Sara Chodoshis an associate editor at PopSci where she writes about everything from vaccine hesitancy to extreme animal sex. She got her master’s degree in science journalism at NYU’s Science Health and Environmental Reporting Program, and is getting a second master’s in data visualization from the University of Girona. Contact the author here.

Author: empire
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Russian farmers about to reap bumper grain harvest – USDA

Russia is projected to produce 85 million tons of wheat in the next agricultural season, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). That would make it one of the best harvests in post-Soviet history.

Russian farmers reaped a record wheat harvest of more than 86 million tons in 2017, with the overall production of grains reaching over 135.5 million tons.

The second largest wheat crop was harvested last year. It totaled 85.9 million tons, while production of all grains, including wheat, neared 133.465 million tons, according to Russia’s Federal State Statistics Service.
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However, the numbers slightly differ from those published by the USDA, which had previously reported that Russia had secured a wheat crop of some 85.2 million tons in 2017, and 85.35 million tons in 2020.

According to US analysts, Russia’s complete stocks of wheat will total 15.082 million tons by the end of June 2022, compared to the 12.082 million tons projected for the end of the current agricultural season, June 30.

“Stocks in Russia are forecast to expand the most as the government continues to implement export tax measures despite another bumper crop,” the USDA said in its report.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT’s business section

Author: RT
This post originally appeared on RT Business News

The Reason You Should Be Cutting Flank Steak Against The Grain

Kansas City Steak Company suggests that to achieve the perfect medium-rare flank steak you’ll need to get a read of at least 130 degrees. Once it is cooked, let the steak to rest for about five minutes to allow the carryover cooking process to occur — as Recipe Tips explains, carryover cooking refers to the process when food continues to cook after being removed from heat.

After it has rested and the internal juices have redistributed, it is time to strategically slice into your delicious flank steak. Food Network suggests cutting into the steak with a “sharp knife held at about a 45-degree angle” and, more specifically, to cut it against the grain. Why is it so important to cut against the grain? Better Homes & Gardens notes that cutting it against the grain will help cut through the fibers, resulting in a more tender cut of beef and providing folks with an easier time at chewing the steak.

Author: [email protected] (Mirtle Pena-Calderon)
This post originally appeared on Mashed How-To

Russia on course to keep global grain supplies high despite export cap

Author RT
This post originally appeared on RT Business News

Exports of Russian wheat and meslin flour more than doubled in January-February when compared with the same period of 2020, amounting to 7.59 million tons, according to the Federal State Statistics Service.

In monetary terms, wheat supplies abroad more than doubled to $ 1.884 billion. Exports of vegetable oil rose by 3.1% in annual terms and amounted to 589.2 thousand tons. They were worth more than $ 630 million.

Statistics also show that export of cereals by Russia in 2019 amounted to 39.4 million tons (including 31.9 million tons of wheat and meslin). Grain shipments in the 2019-2020 agricultural year (from July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020) stood at 41.7 million tons. The country also supplied 33.2 million tons of wheat to the global market. The Ministry of Agriculture projects that in the 2020-2021 agricultural year grain exports will amount to 45 million tons.
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Last April, Russia capped grain shipments until July, to avoid domestic price spikes amid the global coronavirus crisis. Moscow introduced export limits for certain grains, including wheat, rye, barley, and corn, capping supplies at seven million tons.

Booming agricultural production in recent years has enabled Russia to capture more than half of the global wheat market, becoming the world’s biggest exporter of grain, thanks to bumper harvests and attractive pricing. Since the early 2000s, this share of the global wheat market has quadrupled.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT’s business section