The Truth About Where Baby Corn Really Comes From
Anyone who has ever enjoyed Chinese food knows how hard it can be to get through a meal without having to stop and marvel at an ear of baby corn. All those teeny tiny kernels lined up in neat rows are all it takes to inspire even the most practical person's imagination.
Well, we know where your mind has gone, and unfortunately tiny farmers don't harvest baby corn from tiny farms, nor are they created by mad scientists with shrink rays.
They truly are just baby ears of regular corn harvested in an immature stage from a regular-sized corn plant. According to How Stuff Works, once an ear designated to be "baby corn" reaches 2 to 4 inches in length, and is about a half inch in diameter, it is picked. From there, it can be pickled, canned, blanched or frozen.
And it's not only corn we enjoy in miniature form. Baby carrots, tiny squash and micro greens are all common these days—and not all of them are youngsters. Baby broccoli, also commonly called "broccolini," for example, is the offspring of regular-sized broccoli and gai lan, a Chinese plant with similar qualities. And machines make baby carrots from misshapen adults.
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From baby artichokes to zucchini, there are about 50 different types of vegetables that are grown or imported as miniatures in the United States, How Stuff Works reports. And even though the U.S. produces more corn than any other country in the world, it imports almost all of its baby corn from other countries, like Thailand, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, and China.
So what's with our obsession with tiny vegetables? "In terms of our psycho-emotional relationship to tiny things, I think it relates to the way you feel when you're in a cathedral," said Merry White, a Boston University anthropologist, in an interview with New York magazine. "The enormity and intricate detail of the space are awe-inspiring, and humans can experience a flipped version of that awe when looking at meticulously reproduced tiny things. That something can be that small is a wonder."