Corn originated in South America - as did
many other interesting plants like tomatoes, capsicums, potatoes
Corn, or maize, is a sturdy plant
which belongs to the Gramineae or grass family. This is the same
botanical family as barley and sugar cane.
Corn requires a reasonably warm climate to grow, and
there are 5 different types of corn, depending on the shape and
look of the kernels.
Corn originated in South America, in
the highlands of Mexico.
Like so many other plants, Christopher Columbus
introduced it to Europe after he discovered America. Corn has
several different names. Maize derived from the south american word
Mays, and it is also called polenta in some places. Because of the
many varieties of corn, in the 16th century it was sometimes
confused with buckwheat.
It has long been used to brew an alcohol, and even
today in Peru, red corn is used to make a beer, 'chica', which is
spiced with cloves.
Some varieties are grown for fodder, but it is used
more and more widely as a human source of food as well. Apart from
sweet corn which is cooked as a vegetable, and popcorn - the
variety which explodes when heated - the flour is used to make
polenta and for making bread. It is also used as an oil-producing
Polenta meal is an easily digested food. It
is highly nutritious, but suffers from bad publicity, because it
lacks nicotinic acid. It was once common for the poor to eat only
cereal foods,and they often suffered from Pellagra - a nicotinic
acid deficiency disease. However, corn is a rich source of vitamin
A and some B vitamins. It is also a very good source of
carbohydrates and protein.
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Bianchini, F; Corbetta, F; et al.
The Complete Book of Fruits and Vegetables
[English Translation] (New York: Crown, 1976)