Grain of deception! Senate makes corn the state ‘vegetable’

Grain of deception! Senate makes corn the state ‘vegetable’
File photo by Tom Callan

State senators may need to name themselves the official state vegetable!

In the worst redefinition of the word “vegetable” since the Reagan Administration briefly suggested that ketchup was one, the Senate voted last week to name corn the state vegetable even though corn is a grain.

The 56-6 vote ended the hopes of onion lovers that their beloved vegetable — which is actually a vegetable — might win the honor.

A bushel of Brooklyn legislators disgraced the borough by voting for a grain to be the state vegetable.

“Despite the fact that corn doesn’t need the help, I’m happy to support it as we head into BBQ season,” said state Sen. Daniel Squadron (D–Brooklyn Heights), who joined the entire Brooklyn delegation in this corn-tastrophe. “But to be honest, I was more focused on passing legislation that gave all New Yorkers the rights they deserve.”

Squadron’s vote gave his predecessor, former Sen. Marty Connor, a chance to mock the man who defeated him in 2008.

“Isn’t that terrible — it’s not a vegetable,” said Connor. “It’s a grain; you make bread out of it.”

For the record, a grain is actually a form of fruit. The state fruit, however, is already the apple, our principal agricultural product.

Despite widespread mockery of the Albany vote, many farmers didn’t seem to care that a fruit was now the state vegetable.

“Vegetable is a non-botanical term — if you want to call corn what it is, it’s a monocot,” said Annie Novak, who grows more onion than corn at her Eagle Street Rooftop Farm in Greenpoint.

But she’s OK with corn’s day in the sun.

“Eaten on the cob, it’s a veggie all the way,” she said.

And Brooklyn restaurants say corn is by far a more popular ingredient among diners while onions are merely a “component” to any dish.

“Corn is delicious and more readily eaten so maybe that had something to do with the vote,” said Calexico co-owner David Vendley, who uses corn in his tortillas, chips, salsas, and “elote,” or Mexican-style corn on the cob.

Yes, popularity can turn a talentless singer into a pop phenomenon, but it can’t make a grain a vegetable.

And onion has a much stronger-smelling claim on being the state vegetable.

Farms in New York State grow both crops, of course, but New York is the second-largest onion producing state in the country, behind Texas. We’re far from the largest corn grower.

And the city’s original nickname was “The Big Onion,” which was actually derogatory.

Seth Kamil, who has been leading walking tours of Brooklyn and its outer boroughs since 1991, named his company, Big Onion Walking Tour, as a metaphor for peeling away the city’s layers of history.

Kamil said that the Senate made a mistake and the vote should be shucked.

“Declaring corn as a vegetable is ridiculous,” said Kamil. “Corn is a Nebraska thing — their football team is called the Cornhuskers.”

The bill currently awaits approval of the Assembly, where several Brooklyn legislators, including Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries (D–Fort Greene support corn.

“I’m corn all the way,” said Jeffries.

It’s not the first time that lawmakers have tried to rewrite the definition of corn.

Four years ago, the bid to declare a state vegetable came up through the state Senate, but was shucked by Connor, who made a passionate “non-vegetable” argument that carried the day.

That role may be picked up by Assemblyman Joe Lentol (D–Greenpoint), who has replaced Connor as the state’s leading opponent of the vegetablization of corn.

“Experts from New York’s esteemed school of agriculture at Cornell University have said that corn is in fact a grain — so onion has a chance for a comeback,” he said.

And yet some Brooklynites believe that legislators are wasting their time with vegetables and should just name a state grain.

Which should be wheat, of course, said Brad Estabrooke, who owns the Breuckelen Distilling Company, a Sunset Park-based gin mill.

“We use wheat for our gin and our whiskey,” said Estabrooke. “We don’t make bourbon, which is made primarily from corn.”