Corn Products Are Everywhere in American Life

As drivers motor through America's heartland consuming corn products, they'll tell you they pass by more corn than they can imagine, but do you have a kernel of knowledge about one of our favorite crops?


| May/June 2010



Hybrid Dent Field Corn

Hybrid dent field corn isn’t very palatable to most folks, but it is an important raw material for the meat, ethanol and manufactured food industries.

iStockphoto.com/Peter Garbet

Imagine arriving in a brand-new country. The culture you find is different from that which you’ve left, and the people seem suspicious of you. But never mind that. You’re tired, hungry and willing to try anything – even corn products you know nothing about.

You recognize wheat in the fields, and oats are familiar to you, too. You know rye and millet, but these people are growing something you’ve never seen. The plants are huge – taller than you are – and they seem to worship it. The seeds are large, too, much bigger than seeds you’ve ever seen. And the taste? Good stuff.

RECIPES FOR CORN
Cheesy Corn Bake Recipe
Corn Relish Recipe
Dried Corn Soup Recipe 

That’s what happened to Christopher Columbus and his crews when they came to Mesoamerica, where corn was king. 

Silky beginnings

Although Columbus might have thought he’d just stumbled upon something grand and new when he loaded corn onto his ship for the voyage home, Native Americans had been growing corn for some 5,000 years before Columbus set foot in the New World.

No one knows how the plant itself came into existence (Mayan culture says that corn was given to man by the feathered God Quetzalcoatl), but experts think it originated in Central America or Mexico and was traded hand-to-hand. Corn played an important part in Aztec and Mayan religion and cultivation spurred its spread northward. Scientists believe that corn became “domesticated” about 4,500 years ago.

When Columbus finally returned from Cuba to Barcelona in 1493, great excitement surrounded his arrival. Though he hadn’t found the trade route he sought (he thought he had), he came back with many wondrous things that Europeans had never seen. In writing to his patron, a Spanish cleric described (in Latin) one of them: an amazing plant that Columbus said the natives called “mahiz” (or maize).

aggreen
6/18/2014 1:55:35 PM

***But Nan, there's no concrete proof that anyone has been harmed by GMO products in the 30+ years GMO products have been on the market. Thgere's loads of opinions and claims, but no positive proof.


nan roberts
6/17/2012 3:33:55 AM

How about running a story on the other side of corn production? You haven't mentioned the problems with genetically modified corn. Ethanol as a fuel is not here to stay--more controversy is arising about ethanol. It costs more than a gallon of fossil fuel to make a gallon of ethanol. Factory farming to raise such huge mono-crops is unhealthy for the environment. The ubiquity of corn in most of our food, not to mention the other products you list is not good. Especially not genetically modified corn. I'm disappointed that this is so one-sided.






mother earth news fair

MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR

Feb. 17-18, 2018
Belton, Texas

More than 150 workshops, great deals from more than 200 exhibitors, off-stage demos, inspirational keynotes, and great food!

LEARN MORE