When ever I hear the Mealie Lady call out “Mealiemieleeeeeee” on the streets of suburban Johannesburg, I run outside to purchase some mealies from her. I have noticed her swollen ankles as she pushes her trolley packed full of fresh mealies around our middle class neighbourhood, trying to make an honest living.
So while this article is a shout out to all our locals to support this women by lightening her load, it is also to educate you about the therapeutic wonders of this fine 'local' crop.
Our Mealie Heritage:
The mealie, also known as corn and maize, depending on where you are from, originates from Mexico where the Mayans and Aztecs began cultivating it. From there it spread throughout the globe, and a long line of cross breeding resulted in many different versions of the original crop. Here, South Africans found it to be an economical crop to farm and it fast became a national staple food.
The mealies I buy from our local Mealie Lady are a large white starchy variety, unlike the bright yellow sweetcorn that is available in most supermarkets.
When I first tried it I wasn't quite sure how to prepare it, as it is not sweet like sweetcorn which is ideal straight off the cob. After a few bights off the cob, a familiar taste sensation reminded me of the samp and beans (http://www.ivu.org/recipes/african/gnush.html) that my mom used to make when I was younger. I also discovered that it works very well in potjies (stews), or dusted with herb salt if eaten straight off the cob.
Traditional Medicinal Uses:
This local variety has the most beautiful soft golden threads surrounding its cobs. This typically comes from female flowers (the stigmas) and is known as corn silk. Corn silk is not only a fun, tactile delight, but it may be of interest to those who have ever suffered the discomfort of a bladder infection.
Corn silk naturally contains anti-inflammatory, healing and soothing compounds that are found to relax the muscular lining of the urinary-genitalal system and relieve the discomfort and irritation associated with UTIs (urinary tract infections), cystitis, urethritis, and prostatitis. Corn silk is also an antiseptic, which may help treat infection in these areas.
It is found to be diuretic (increases urination) that helps flush irritants, deposits and toxins from the kidneys and bladder, and contains high levels of potassium, which may help counter the loss of potassium that is usually associated with many other diuretics. Generous levels of potassium along side this diuretic affect, is why corn silk is often brewed for fluid retention, PMS (premenstrual syndrome), gout and arthritis.
Corn silk has been used to help relieve carpel tunnel syndrome, lower blood pressure, and support digestion by increasing bile production. It has also been used topically to aid the healing of wounds and ulcers on the skin. It contains high levels of vitamin K, which may support clotting factors in the blood.
How it is used: One cup of corn silk tea is taken three times a day during times of need. For topical use, a poultice can be made.
Warning: Check with your health care provider before using herbal remedies on yourself. There may be contraindications depending on your individual needs.
Prescription for Herbal Healing, By Phyllis A. Balch - Avery(2002)