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Corn A to Z: 26 Things You Didn't Know about Corn

Corn A to Z: 26 Things You Didn't Know about Corn

Did you know for an example about the corn rent or the extra sweet variety of corn? Discover what's behind the famous crop found by the Olmecs

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Atzec
Corn was a central element of the Atzec civilization, which dominated large parts of Mexico and Mesoamerica from the 14th to 16th centuries. More than dietary, its importance was religious and spiritual. Centeōtl, the maize deity, was one of the most important in their mythology. He was the son of the earth goddess and of the solar deity.

Bread
Cornbread is a generic name for the popular quick breads containing cornmeal and leavened by baking powder. Many backed versions are common in the United States cuisine, including corn pone, baked in a specific type of iron pan over an open fire.

Cob
It is the corn’s ‘heart’, the part of the ear on which the kernels grow. Young cobs, also called baby corn, can be consumed raw, but as the plant matures the cob becomes tougher until only the kernels are edible. However, the innermost part has many uses, from industrial use as organic compound, to livestock bedding, to fuel.

Distilled
The most famous American spirit is made from corn: Bourbon. This type of barrel-aged American whiskey derives its name from its historical association with the area known as Old Bourbon, around what is now Bourbon County, Kentucky.

Ethanol
It is the grain alcohol which can be produced from corn by fermentation. It is used to produce biofuel. In the USA, bioethanol made from corn is widely and controversially used as a gasoline additive to increase octane and improve vehicle emissions.

Flour
The coarse flour ground from dried corn is called cornmeal; it can be yellow, white or bluish and have different consistencies. In the US, the very finely ground one is called cornflour, however in the UK, the word cornflour denotes cornstarch, while in Australia denotes wheat starch. Masa is the corn flour made from hominy, dried maize kernels which have been treated with nixtamalization.

GMO
Genetically modified corn is corn which underwent changes introduced into its DNA by genetic engineering techniques. 86% of the US corn crop was genetically modified in 2010, and 32% of the worldwide maize crop was GM in 2011. GMO crops are highly controversial because of their potential health risks and their ill-effects on biodiversity.

Harvest
In the United States, the largest producer of corn around the world (40% of the share), harvesting takes place in October finishing in November. More than one third of the total harvest is used for livestock feed, another good third goes to ethanol production, 13% is exported, about 4% is made into corn syrup, and the rest is used for other sweeteners, making alcohol for beverages, etc. Less than 10% of the harvest is used for human food or drink.

Indian corn
It primarily means maize, but can refer more specifically to multicolored "flint corn", a harder variant which has large proportions of kernels with hues outside the yellow range. In the USA, it is used for traditional Thanksgiving decorations.

Jora
It is a specific kind of yellow maize used to prepare Chicha de jora, the traditional corn beer widespread in Latin America. It has a pale straw color, a slightly milky appearance, and a slightly sour aftertaste, reminiscent of hard apple cider. It has been prepared and consumed in communities throughout in the Andes for millennia.

Kernels
They are the plant’s seeds, contained in the ears. Ears are female inflorescences, tightly covered over by several layers of leaves, with elongated stigmas that look like tufts of hair, the corn silk. An ear can commonly hold 600 kernels. Although technically a grain, maize kernels are used in cooking as a vegetable or starch.

Laws
Between 1815 and 1846, the Corn Laws imposed steep import duties to protect cereal producers in Great Britain and Ireland. They made it too expensive for anyone to import grain from other countries, even when the people of Great Britain and Ireland needed the food (as in times of famine).

Maize
The term corn is used in North America, Australia, and New Zealand to define maize (Indian corn). The word maize derives from the Spanish form of the indigenous word for the plant, maiz, used by the Taíno, pre-Columbian inhabitants of some Caribbean islands. Corn in British English means any kind of cereal, actually the chief cereal crop of a district, especially wheat ((in England) or oats (in Scotland).

Nixtamalization
It is the process for the preparation of corn, traditionally used by native people in Mesoamerica. The grain is soaked and cooked in an alkaline solution, usually limewater, and hulled. More than improving flavor and aroma, it has several nutritional benefits, including providing niancin (vitamin B3). When corn cultivation was adopted worldwide, this preparation method was abandoned, and people started to suffer from pellagra.

Olmec
They were the first people, together with Mayans, to domesticate the maize grain in prehistoric times. Starting from Mexico, the pre-Columbian civilizations cultivated it throughout Mesoamerica, and, beginning about 2500 BC, the crop started to spread through much of the Americas, transforming the landscape.

Pellagra
It is a disease caused by vitamin deficiency, which affects the intestine and the skin (the name comes from Italian ‘pelle’ – skin, and ‘agra’, sour). A wildly-spread illness during 1700, 1800 and in the beginning of 1900 (when in the American South it reached epidemic proportions), it was said to be the poor polenta or corn porridge eaters’ disease. Because it outbreaks occurred in regions where corn was the dominant food crop, the belief for centuries was that the corn itself was the carrier of the disease.

QPM
Quality Protein Maize (QPM) contains nearly twice as much usable protein as other maize grown in the tropics and yields 10% more grain than traditional varieties. It was developed in the late 1990s; for their achievement, its developers won the 2000 World Food Prize.

Rent
The ‘corn rent’ was a rent paid in corn. It was a tithe, an annual payment of an agreed proportion (originally one-tenth) of the yearly produce of the land. In England and Wales tithes were still payable in most of the parishes by 1836, when the Government decided on the substitution of money payments for payment ‘in kind’ all over the country.

Starch 
Cornstarch (or corn flour, or maize flour) is the starch - a carbohydrate - of the corn grain. Until 1850, it was used primarily for starching laundry. It is nowadays used as a thickening agent in soups and liquid-based foods, such as sauces, gravies and custards. It is also much appreciated in pastry-making, as it makes cakes extremely soft.

Tortilla
In Mexico and Central America, it is a type of thin, unleavened flat bread, made from finely ground corn. The name means ‘little cake’ in Spanish, because of their resemblance with the round omelettes and cakes of the colonizers. The indigenous name – for Nahuatl speakers – is tlaxcalli.

Ugali
It is a dish of maize flour typical of the African Great Lakes region and Southern Africa. Cooked with water to a porridge- or dough-like consistency, it is traditionally eaten by rolling a lump into a ball with the right hand, and then dipping it into a sauce or stew of vegetables and/or meat.

Valparaiso
The city in Indiana is one of the at least six North-American cities claiming to be the ‘Popcorn Capital of the World’. Popcorn is a type of corn – variety Everta - that expands from the kernel and puffs up when heated. In popcorn jargon, a popped kernel of corn is known as a "flake". Two shapes of flakes are commercially important: the irregular "Butterfly", and the ball-shaped "Mushroom". Popcorn was first discovered the Guatemalans thousands of years ago, with evidence dating back to 4700 BC.

Weevil
The corn weevil is a bug (Sphenophorus zeae), which causes great damage to maize, attacking its stalk near the root.

Xtra-sweet
Sweet corn - also called sugar corn - is a variety of maize with a high sugar content. It must be eaten fresh, canned, or frozen; it is the one people typically put in their salad. Supersweet corn varieties are genetically modified ones, which produce higher than normal levels of sugar. Yellow. The most common commercial corn is yellow, however kernels naturally occur in many colors, depending on the cultivar: from pale white to red, to an astonishing bluish purple, which makes charming corn-based dishes.

Zea
It is the genus of grasses to which all corn varieties belong. Maize belongs to the subspecies Zea-Mays, and it is the only domesticated group of the genus.

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Comments
  • Ani Sanchez said on

    whole article*

  • Ani Sanchez said on

    Hi! I think is very interesting the hole article, but there is a little misspelling in the first paragraph. The mexican civilization you are talking about are the "Aztecs", not the Atzec.
    Thank you.

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