Asia had its own rice, Europe had its oats and wheat, America had its own corn. Maize, or Indian corn, originated from the Americas and Mexico and has been their mainstay for centuries. However, the plant has come a long way since its early form. A staple food, together with squash, beans, quinoa and other grains, it was highly appreciated by ancient civilizations and still is.
Scientists believe people living in central America and Mexico started developing corn at least 7000 years back. It was launched from a wild grass called teosinte, which seemed very different from our modern-day edition. The ears and stalks were much smaller, the kernels placed further apart. Corn proved a valuable resource for ancient civilizations, not just just for food. Every area of the ear, such as husks and corn silk, was used for baskets, bedding, stuffings, decorations, religious ceremonies and smoking pipes.
In North America, corn was here long before the white man, coming from Mexico and points south, thousands of years back. The Native Americans, who called it maize, taught the early settlers how to grind kernels into a flour that was subsequently used for making pudding, porridge and breads. They also taught them how to wash corn and use it as an animal feed and keep it on the long winters. Believe it or not, some kinds of corn may even be popped for a treat and decoration, exactly like today. About 2500 BC, as maize started to spread to the north, it was first cultivated in what is now New Mexico and Arizona. From the U.S. alone, we develop 361 million metric tons annually, and corn is the largest crop in the Americas, second globally.
The term”maize” was originally Spanish, and comes from the word mahiz from the Arawak language, and in the early 1600s it wasn’t yet a frequent word in England. Due to its flexibility and ability to adapt to various soils and climates, corn became a familiar harvest in Spain and Italy during the 1500s although still not incorporated in their cuisines on a wide basis.
But they soon found these grains didn’t grow too in the cold New England climate since they had across the pond. When introduced to maize from the Native American Indians, they immediately adopted the new crop and learned how to use it to its full advantage. And barnyard creatures happily munched on it during the long winters. Maize did not appear in China before the mid-1500s and was likely initiated by the Portuguese who discovered it grew well in Asian climates. It was probably mature field corn, ground into a type of mush and surely took a backseat to rice.
It’s highly possible that Columbus brought back corn to Europe after his whirlwind voyage to the Americas in 1492. For centuries later, the term corn was generic, describing all cereal grains generally, and it was probably utilized in ancient years pretty much for animal fodder. The Europeans and Brits were slow to embrace it for human consumption, preferring their recognizable oats, barley and wheat.
From the early 1800s, corn was one of his plantation’s many flourishing crops, and he proudly served his favourite corn pudding frequently at his bountiful dinners. As a vegetable aficionado, he also enjoyed it in different forms, such as roasted on the cob and at a simple cold salad.
The Midwestern states of Indiana, Iowa and Illinois produce most the country’s harvest, and our American cuisine seems unthinkable without the many forms we enjoy from one of our favorite veggies. Regrettably, corn has come under fire recently because of high fructose corn syrup and its proliferation of Genetically Modified (GMO) mutations. Although somewhat removed from the Indian corn our ancestors encountered, it continues to flourish as a significant crop here in the U.S. in addition to worldwide. Summer especially goes together with our beloved corn, and what would movies be without it popped and coated with melted butter, or fairs and carnivals without corn dogs. However you see it, America is quite a corny country. And that is not just chicken feed.