What is truly amazing about corn is its versatility and seemingly endless uses culinary and otherwise. There are many theories about the origins of corn but most agree that sometime between 10,000 and 5,500 B.C. the first corn plants became hybridized and domesticated in Central and South America. Corn is the most grown crop in the United States. Also remember no Bourbon without it!
Native Seeds Search identifies 5 types of corn (Zea mays is its scientific name):
- Flint or Indian corn which comes in many colors so named because its hard outer layer is “as hard as flint”
- Pop Corn a sub variety of flint whose soft starchy center facilitates the “pop” into our favorite movie snack
- Flour corn which is white in color and easily ground of tamales and tortillas and whose whole kernels are used for posole
- Dent or Field corn so named because when it’s dried a “dent” is created in the top of the kernel. It is used primarily for animal feed and industrial products such as ethanol
- Sweet corn which is the one we are most familiar with for culinary uses which is consumed while it’s still “green” and is not dried. The old admonition was to get a pot of water boiling before you picked the corn. Get that corn into the water pronto to maintain its sweetness. With the art of hybridization this isn’t so important now. Super sweet varieties maintain their sweetness for days.
Without question the “bible” of corn is Betty Fussell’s THE STORY OF CORN, published by University of New Mexico Press, which is a unique compendium of corn’s history, science, mythology, art, anecdote and more. If you love corn as much as I do, this should be on your bookshelf.
This article was published in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat on 8-25-21