I received this question the other day:
"Why do they wrap tamales in corn husks? I do not see the reason for it."
Here is the reason:
Tamales are made with a cornmeal dough that has to be enclosed completely in something, then steamed. (if not wrapped, the tamales could fall apart and become cornmeal soup!) Some people nowadays use aluminum foil or parchment to enclose the cornmeal dough and filling.
Corn husks are traditional, because they do the job of holding the dough and filling -- being porous and holding up to the steaming -- and also they don't add any bad taste to the finished dish. Also, they are free, since they come with the corn. They also become a "wrapper" of sorts.
I hope that explains the corn husk phenomenon adequately. :)
(By: Chef Deb)