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8 Reasons to Save Your Corn Husks

Nov 15, 2016

Our modern society is obsessed with single-serving convenience. From shirts that are simply missing a button to electronic devices that function perfectly but are an older model, we're quite comfortable throwing away or otherwise disposing of items prematurely. For instance, when cooking at home, corn husks may seem like they serve a straightforward purpose -- that once removed from the corn cob, they should be disposed of quickly (hopefully in a compost system and not in the garbage). However, there are myriad uses for corn husks once they have been pulled from an ear of corn. Here are eight excellent choices for reusing those corn husks instead of disposing of them!

1. Make delicious tamales

Enjoy Mexican-inspired tamales at home! Making tamales is a simple affair. First, select a filling. Many traditional recipes use pulled pork, cooked the previous day, but tamales can also be filled with seasoned beef or chicken, beans, or cheese and sliced peppers with delicious results. A simple batter is prepared from corn masa (not regular corn meal; masa is specially treated and is integral to the quality of the end product), then spread in a thin layer onto clean, dry corn husks. A spoonful of filling is placed in the center of the tamale, and then the corn husk is rolled and tied off. The tamale is then placed with many others in a steamer for an hour and a half and enjoyed piping hot. Once you've tried them homemade, you'll wonder why you ever threw your cork husks away.

2. Grill fish perfectly

You can also use clean, recently rinsed (and therefore moist) corn husks to wrap raw, seasoned fish before grilling. You can either wrap smaller, individual fillets or pieces of fish in separate corn husks, or you can use many corn husks to create a larger wrapper for bigger fillets. If attempting the latter method, make sure the edges of the husks are folded over to protect the fish from the direct heat of the grill. The end result is a smoky, tender fillet that won't be dried out as too often happens with more delicate fish when grilled.

3. Wrap your sticky rice

While sticky rice is traditionally wrapped in either lotus leaves or banana leaves, those items aren't as readily available in the United States (unless you visit an authentic specialty grocer in your area). Corn husks can fill the same purpose, making the sticky rice easy to transport and eat conveniently and with relatively little mess.

4. Make corn husk flowers

Martha Stewart has done this before, and she provides excellent directions on how to make a wide assortment of corn husk flowers, from cosmos to daisies. The corn husks are easily dyed to a variety of colors and can be cut into any shape that paper can. Corn husk flowers have a much more earthy, textured appeal when compared to their paper counterparts.

5. Make a corn husk basket

Smaller baskets around three inches in diameter can require as few as three or four husks. Of course, it requires saving corn husks for a while if you want a bigger basket. After the husks have been cleaned and dried, soak them in warm water for about ten minutes, and then follow these simple instructions to create a small, beautiful basket in only a few hours!

6. Make a corn husk doll or ornament

This is truly a traditional Native American craft, possibly having been practiced for over a millennia! It typically only takes the carefully dried husks from one or two ears of corn to make a single, roughly six-inch tall doll. You can even use dried corn silk for hair on the dolls. The link above also provides directions on how to make clothing for the dolls using your extra husks. Use yours as a Christmas tree ornament for an added seasonal touch!

7. Make a corn husk wreath

Few wreath designs scream autumn or Thanksgiving the way that a homemade wreath constructed from cleaned, dried corn husks can. Typically, you'll start with an inexpensive straw wreath and then carefully wrap it in cleaned, dried corn husks around the straw center, pinning them in place with u-pins. Whether you create a folded, fanciful wreath, something simpler by wrapping them, or something truly ornate by dying and even braiding the corn husks before applying them (and possibly adding some corn husk flowers as eye-catching details), this is a great, decorative use for corn husks.

8. Use as fire tinder

Because corn husks burn easily when exposed to an open flame, they are a sustainable option for starting a campfire or pitching a fire in the fireplace. Save them and store in a plastic bag to bring on your next camping trip… or even better, bring along whole ears to use the husks as tinder before roasting the cobs over the pit!

Whether you're looking to explore new culinary adventures, reduce waste, or enjoy some seasonal crafts, there are a host of fun uses for corn husks. Because of their texture and how easily they store, there's really no reason to not try washing and drying them after your next encounter with corn on the cob at home.