Maize or corn silk (Maydis stigma) is a collection of fine, soft, fiber-like yellowish threads from the flower of the maize plant that is generally considered as a waste product.
However, this is no longer the case for the research team from the Cagayan Valley Research Center (CVRC) of the Department of Agriculture–Regional Field Office (DA-RFO) 2 in Ilagan, Isabela, as they continuously diversify the many uses of corn, this time, focusing on the silk.
The Cagayan Valley region is dubbed as the Philippines’ corn capital being the country’s top producer of corn. Together with other agricultural crops in the region such as rice, farmers rely heavily on corn for livelihood. With investments on research and development (R&D), CVRC, led by its Station Manager Rose Mary Aquino, explored the potentials of the maize silk in the hopes of adding more product value and at the same time increasing the income of corn farmers in the province.
“So far, ang dine-develop namin ay coming from the grains of corn such as noodles and coffee, among others. Then we came to ask ourselves, ano ang pwede nating gawin sa waste?” Aquino shared. Such idea inspired her and her team to come up with a project to develop a product using silk.
Traditionally, maize silk is used for its diuretic properties, among others. Indigenous Western communities were known to have been using maize silk as remedy for urinary tract infections (UTI), kidney and bladder infections.
In the medical world, diuretics are medications designed to increase the amount of water and salt expelled from the body in the form of urine. These medicines are often prescribed to help treat high blood pressure, as it reduces the amount of fluid in the blood vessels. Additionally, diuretics can aid in weight loss, too.
Other health claims of corn silk according to some studies include its ability to regulate blood sugar levels; a good source of Vitamin C; has anti-inflammatory properties; and facilitates blood clotting. In fact, a study on the phytochemical components and antioxidant activity of various extracts of corn silk demonstrated that it is rich in phytochemicals such as alkaloids, amino acids, carbohydrates, phenolic compounds, terpenoids, steroids, proteins and tannins, and has also exhibited high antioxidant properties.
Focusing on these health benefits, Aquino’s team looked into utilizing the silk as a healthy juice drink, adding to the existing product line of corn called the Mangi Maxi. Derived from the words Mangi, an Ibanag term for corn, and Maxi, which means to maximize, Mangi Maxi offers a wide array of corn products such as coffee, noodles, and pastries to name a few.
With a brand name Maize Silky Sip, this newest addition to the Mangi Maxi product line is a healthy juice drink made out of corn silk. Processed through boiling and fermentation, it is blended with lemon grass using honey as sweetener to make the taste more appealing especially to the health-conscious market.
The Maize Silky Sip is currently packaged in a 350-ml glass bottle and priced at Php 25. It was given third prize for “Best Product” category from the recently held 13th Agriculture and Fisheries Technology Forum and Product Exhibition organized by the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) on 8-10 August 2017.
However, to further improve the packaging without compromising market competitiveness, the research team is now collaborating with the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) to analyze and establish its nutritional value and especially to determine appropriate natural preservatives that can prolong the shelf life of the product. Presently, a bottle of the Maize Silky Sip can last for up to five days.
Also, in collaboration with the National Nutrition Council of the Philippines, the research team is looking into the possibility of promoting the Maize Silky Sip safe for infant use, targeting those who suffer from pediatric UTI.
With funding support from BAR, under its National Technology Commercialization Program (NTCP), this product development project takes off from the existing projects on white and purple corn implemented by DA-RFO 2.
“For now, we are undergoing field trials to establish when is the best stage to gather the silk of the maize plant, without affecting the grains,” said Aquino. Her team is also set to establish data on the silk’s storability, and to determine the best corn variety to use for the Maize Silky Sip.
“We are hoping that one day, this product can compete with the highly commercialized natural fruit juices available in the market. Not only does the Maize Silky Sip juice promote our local corn industry, but more importantly, it will help uplift the lives of our corn farmers,” Aquino added. ### (Daryl Lou A. Battad)