Corn silk may now be associated with a healthy lifestyle and medicinal benefit, but, as an adolescent, my memories of the use of corn silk was as a cigarette alternative. I have been told tales of those people in the Dirty Thirties who regularly rolled this dried corn fibre into cigarette papers, since tobacco was prohibitively expensive. While I do not recommend this practice today, the anecdote illustrates that desperate people use creative tactics to achieve an end.
The silk from the ears of corn, ironically, has significant medicinal benefit and use, unlike tobacco. It is used to treat cystitis, prostatitis and urethritis, and has a long history in the treatment of bedwetting, kidney stones, jaundice and oedema. Studies have found that it reduces blood clotting time and blood pressure. As a gentle treatment for gout, it rivals the effectiveness of cherries. (As a gout sufferer, I can attest to the effectiveness of both.)
Rick in Vitamin K, it is a good diuretic, eliminating fluids but not decreasing the body’s potassium. Since it contains significant potassium, whatever is lost through the diuretic effect of the corn silk is more than offset but its input levels.
While the most popular method of consuming corn silk is to make a tea or infusion by steeping a handful of fresh or dried silk in two cups of boiled water, there is a wealth of other options for using this valuable grass in recipes.
I dry the silk (preferably in open air, as opposed to a dehydrator), then crumble a small handful over my cereal, similar to sprinkling flax seed over cereals. It has a slightly sweet and nutty taste. In early summer, I harvest the silk fresh, chop it fine, and use it in salads. I have found that the full silk is quite stringy, unless chopped. In soups, I use chopped silk along with cream corn and finely chopped potatoes, parsley, a little tarragon, pepper, chopped onions and cayenne. On occasion, I will toss in chopped zucchini or pumpkin and a little pumpkin spice as an alternative. Dried & crushed corn silk also works well in breading for chicken and pork chops.< prior to the ears forming, so that the pollen is captured, as well. Because of its high moisture content, do not store in plastic, and dry any silk that you will not be using immediately. To dry corn silk, spread it thinly on a fibreglass screen in an area without direct sunlight, but moderate air movement. In a dehydrator, corn silk tends to clump.