Why write an article about corn, a crop that is so common and eaten all over the world you might ask? Well the answer is simple; there is so much we don’t know about corn. For example, I would have thought that corn was something that just grew wild and the first hunter and gathering cultures just picked in and ate it raw. By it does not seem to be the case. Corn does not grow wild, is a crop that was introduced to the land by human intervention.
We all have heard that corn or maize was originally introduced into the European diet when the settlers, or fur trappers came to North America. The native peoples called it maize.
It is believed that corn was first cultivated in central Mexico at least 7000 years ago, but the corn grown there was very different from the corn we are used to today. The cultivation of corn started with a blade of grass called teosinte. The kernels of this corn were much smaller than today and not placed as close together on the husk as we are used to with our modern day corn. It became the staple food for many native people throughout the Americas. The cultivation of corn spread from Mexico to Peru to the south and southwestern United States to the north and it was only about 1000 years ago that you could find corn or maize throughout North America.
When th Europeans came to the new world they also introduced to other fruits and vegetables such peaches, strawberries, tomatoes, potatoes, pumpkins, beans. They also introduced different fruits and vegetables to the Native diet as well.
There are many interesting native legends about how corn came into being.
The Sauk leader, chief Black Hawk, of a native tribe in Iowa, recounted the native story of how corn came into being. According to legend, two ancestors of the Sauk killed a deer and were eating it by a fireside when they saw a beautiful woman come down to earth by the clouds. They immediately assumed she was hungry and shared their food with her. The woman told them to return to the same spot in exactly one year’s time and she would repay them for their generosity. Then she returned to the clouds from where she came. When they got back to their village they told the people who laughed at them and their wild story.
A year later they returned to the exact spot and low and behold they found corn growing where her left hand had rested, beans growing where her right had had rested and tobacco growing where she had been seated
Types of Corn
Flint Corn – or Indian corn is found mostly in Central and South America and the kernels are white to red in colour. Flint corn has a tough outer shell.
Dent corn – Yellow or white corn is used to feed livestock and is used in commercial products.
Sweet corn – contains more sugar than other corns but is the kind we eat straight from the cob and is also eaten from the can or is bought frozen.
Uses for Corn
From the husks the Natives made moccasins, baskets, masks, cornhusk dolls and sleeping mats.
Corn is used as a fuel (ethanol)
Cornstarch is used in fabrics
Corn is used for people and animal food
Corn syrup is used in beverages
Cornstarch is used in bookbinding
Corn oil is used in creating ink, ice cream, marshmallows, cosmetics, glue, shoe polish, and aspirin.