Each year at this time, I use the abundant corn husks for crafting items for my Lúnasa altar (corn dolls, etc), and often save and dry the excess husks to have on hand for Imbolg celebrations too. I much prefer this to buying husks at craft stores, as I have no idea if they have been treated chemically (to preserve) or from where they were sourced.
And you can get them for free! Most farmers markets, rural vegetable stands, and even local grocery stores will have shucking bins (pictured above at my local greengrocers) for the husks and silk to be collected for disposal or recycling. A simple request to take some home will invariably result in a “yes, please do!” (and a chance to explain why or how you’re using them!).
People still use corn husks in a number of way, as did our ancestors (such practical folks, using every bit of a plant or animal). They dried and shredded the husks, then used to fill a mattress and make into scrubbers, children’s toys or crafts and other decorative items. They used the whole husk as wrappers for steamed food (tamales are still made this way). Today corn husks are still used in crafting: wreaths, dolls, and other items, as pictured below.
And let’s not forget the corn silk (Zea mays)!
It was and is still used as medicine, particularly for the urinary and prostate systems, and for lowering blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure. It is packed witih potassium and acts medicinally as a diuretic, anti-inflammatory, astringent and detoxicant.
To make a corn silk tea:
When husking the corn, gently remove the bundle of corn silk. Cut off any brown or black bits from the end. Some folks use it fresh, but you can dry for a couple of days and then store in a sealed container for future use.
Add a generous two-finger pinch of silk into a cup and then pour over one cup / 235 ml of boiled water, steeping for roughly five minutes. Strain and drink. Alternatively you could add the silk to an infuser insert into your cup, for easy straining, and some folks don’t even bother straining it!
CAUTION: There is much to learn about corn silk uses and delivery systems (teas, tinctures, etc), so do work with a herbalist or other specialist before trying it as a treatment and make sure there are no contraindications for your health, especially with its diuretic qualities and high potassium content.
Preparing corn husks for crafting
When working with fresh husks for crafting, there is some preparation required, especially if you plan to save them for later use. This is the method I learned, and I would love to hear your methods! I’ll be making some new corn dolls and may try something new.
- Garble the husks in a bowl of water, or under a tap of running water, to remove any bugs, dirt, corn silk, etc.
- Cut off any stringy or brown bits.
- Let them dry for about three days (on newspaper, tea towels or a sheet).
- Once dry, you can store them in a cool dry place in a sealed container. Do check for mold!
If using immediately for crafts, still follow steps 1 and 2, and check to see how pliable they are. If a little stiff, give them a quick soak, but fresh husks can be worked with fairly easily.
If you are working with dried husks, soak for a couple of minutes in warm water to soften. Check on the pliability. If still too stiff to bend or shape, soak for a few more minutes..
This year, I also am planning a dehydrator trial, four hours or so at a max of 135F, and checking regularly.