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A corncob is the central core of a maize (Zea mays ssp. mays L.) ear. It is the part of the ear on which the kernels grow. The corn plant's ear is also considered a "cob" or "pole" but it is not fully a "pole" until the ear is shucked, or removed from the plant material around the ear.
Young ears, also called baby corn, can be consumed raw, but as the plant matures the cob becomes tougher until only the kernels are edible.
When harvesting corn the corncob may be collected as part of the ear or may be left as part of the corn stover in the field.
The innermost part of the cob is white and has a consistency similar to foam plastic.
Corncobs find use in the following applications:
- Industrial source of the chemical furfural
- Fiber in fodder for ruminant livestock (despite low nutritional value)
- Water in which corncobs have been boiled contains thickeners and can be added to soup stock or made into traditional sweetened corncob jelly.
- Livestock bedding - cobs absorb moisture and provide a compliant surface
- A mild abrasive for cleaning building surfaces, when coarsely ground
- Raw material for bowls of corncob pipes
- Fuel - corncobs may be burned to provide heat
- Charcoal production
Corncobs are also commonly used as bedding for rodents used as subjects in research experiments, usually supplemented with other types of bedding like cotton fiber intended to reduce respiratory problems blamed in turn on all-corncob bedding and bacterial growth.
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