Sunday, August 22, 2010

In Praise of Corn Silks

It's corn season in New England. The grocers and Farmers' Markets are brimming with burlap sacks full of sweet ripe ear upon ear of this summer cookout, clambake, and picnic favorite. Happily, I've been bringing some home, and in the shucking process, renewing my wonder at the all-essential silk.

Ever since Wellesley College Horticulture class where I learned about the function and purpose of this delicate floss, I've never looked at a corn cob the same. Prior to that enlighten-
these hairy filaments were the messy, nuisance part about getting to the corn. They stuck to the counter, they stuck to the cob--and invariably you end up with at least one stuck in your teeth. I guess I just never stopped to think about it, but even if I had, I doubt I would've guessed that strand by strand, the silks produced the kernels, that each attached to, was responsible for one of its very own. If this occurred with one strand (stamen) and one ovary--or two or three, or even six or eight, that would be cool enough, but we're talking 300 or so kernels per ear here. That is downright amazing, if you ask me. That they plump and sweeten in (usually) perfectly ordered rows, and have been doing so time and again over the ages: well that's a miracle to me.

So here's to the intelligence, the elegance that corn silks are to corn. I am renewed in my amazement of them each time I open a new ear. "They've done it again," I think when I find yet more perfection, order, sweet abundance inside. I feel privy to the act, the force of Creation Itself, right here in my own two hands.


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