The History of Corn
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Though its origins are a bit unclear, Corn is a true American native. Corn most likely developed from a large grass called teosinte (Zea Mexicana) which still grows wild in Central America.  Corn was the result of radical evolutionary changes from its parent plant and is quite different from other grasses.  It was originally domesticated between 7,000 and 10,000 years ago in Mexico and Central America.

 

The early Indian populations discovered that when planted by man, Corn is incredibly easy to grow.  It quickly became the main staple for many tribes and cultures.  The Olmec (the first major civilization in Mexico), Incans, Mayas, Aztecs, Mississippi Mound Builders and other North and South America semi-nomads all depended on Corn for survival.

 

Corn was so important that many Indian cultures had gods and myths associated with Corn/Maize.  The Aztecs had a god dedicated solely to Corn.  The Aztec Maize god consisted of both a male (Centeotl) and female (Chicomecoatl) counterpart.  The male and female parts were in charge of monitoring different phases of the Corn’s growth.  Centeotl is often depicted in Aztec statues and imagery with corncobs sprouting from his head, or holding ears of Corn in his hand or holding a scepter made of corncobs.  The Aztecs also believed their god Quetzalcoatl first brought Corn to man by disguising himself as an ant and stealing a kernel from the “Mount of Sustenance” where Corn was grown.  The Maya believed their creator gods made the first humans from white Corn seed which they ground into dough and molded into people.  The white Corn seed was released from its hiding place in an immovable rock by a rain god splitting the rock with a bolt of lightning, which burned some of the kernels and created red, black and blue colored kernels.

 

As early man grew dependent on Corn, Corn also became highly dependent on man.  Its physical structure is unique among grasses. Corn’s seed kernels grow on large ears which are encased in hair-like fibers called Silk.  The Silk-covered ears are in turn surrounded by a covering of thin leaves called Husks.  Thus the seeds are very well protected from predators, but the protection also makes it harder for the plant to disperse its seeds.  All other grass seeds can be naturally and easily spread by wind, birds, etc., but Corn grows best when physically planted in spaced planting.  Enter man and his farming skills, and the rest as they say is history.

 

And what a history!  From its home in the Americas, Corn spread all over the world.  Europeans first learned of Corn from Columbus when he reported on his voyage to the New World to Queen Isabella’s court in 1493.  Columbus described the plant as a very tall grass with an ear as wide as a man’s arm, and grains “affixed by nature in a wondrous manner and in form and size like garden peas, white when young.”  Today, Corn is grown everywhere in the world except on the continent of Antarctica.

 

America is particularly indebted to Corn.  Thank goodness the Indian Squanto taught the Pilgrims how to plant and grow Corn in 1621.  Without it, they wouldn’t have survived a single winter.  Once it gained a foothold in the US, Corn took over large swaths of American farmland.  Most settlers wanted to grow Wheat as they had in the Old World, but Wheat had trouble adapting to the different growing conditions in North America.  As a native plant, Corn could deal with the rough climate and variety of weather and soils, and it prospered while Wheat struggled.  When the settlers discovered that Corn could be eaten fresh, could be dried and stored, could be fed to their livestock and even made into whiskey, the scales tipped in Corn’s favo 

Though its origins are a bit unclear, Corn is a true American native. Corn most likely developed from a large grass called teosinte (Zea Mexicana) which still grows wild in Central America. Corn was the result of radical evolutionary changes from its parent plant and is quite different from other grasses.  It was originally domesticated between 7,000 and 10,000 years ago in Mexico and Central America.

The early Indian populations discovered that when planted by man, Corn is incredibly easy to grow.  It quickly became the main staple for many tribes and cultures.  The Olmec (the first major civilization in Mexico), Incans, Mayas, Aztecs, Mississippi Mound Builders and other North and South America semi-nomads all depended on Corn for survival.

Corn was so important that many Indian cultures had gods and myths associated with Corn/Maize.  The Aztecs had a god dedicated solely to Corn.  The Aztec Maize god consisted of both a male (Centeotl) and female (Chicomecoatl) counterpart.  The male and female parts were in charge of monitoring different phases of the Corn’s growth.  Centeotl is often depicted in Aztec statues and imagery with corncobs sprouting from his head, or holding ears of Corn in his hand or holding a scepter made of corncobs.  The Aztecs also believed their god Quetzalcoatl first brought Corn to man by disguising himself as an ant and stealing a kernel from the “Mount of Sustenance” where Corn was grown.  The Maya believed their creator gods made the first humans from white Corn seed which they ground into dough and molded into people.  The white Corn seed was released from its hiding place in an immovable rock by a rain god splitting the rock with a bolt of lightning, which burned some of the kernels and created red, black and blue colored kernels.

As early man grew dependent on Corn, Corn also became highly dependent on man.  Its physical structure is unique among grasses. Corn’s seed kernels grow on large ears which are encased in hair-like fibers called Silk. The Silk-covered ears are in turn surrounded by a covering of thin leaves called Husks. Thus the seeds are very well protected from predators, but the protection also makes it harder for the plant to disperse its seeds.  All other grass seeds can be naturally and easily spread by wind, birds, etc., but Corn grows best when physically planted in spaced planting.  Enter man and his farming skills, and the rest as they say is history.

And what a history!  From its home in the Americas, Corn spread all over the world.  Europeans first learned of Corn from Columbus when he reported on his voyage to the New World to Queen Isabella’s court in 1493.  Columbus described the plant as a very tall grass with an ear as wide as a man’s arm, and grains “affixed by nature in a wondrous manner and in form and size like garden peas, white when young.”  Today, Corn is grown everywhere in the world except on the continent of Antarctica.

America is particularly indebted to Corn. Thank goodness the Indian Squanto taught the Pilgrims how to plant and grow Corn in 1621.  Without it, they wouldn’t have survived a single winter.  Once it gained a foothold in the US, Corn took over large swaths of American farmland.  Most settlers wanted to grow Wheat as they had in the Old World, but Wheat had trouble adapting to the different growing conditions in North America.  As a native plant, Corn could deal with the rough climate and variety of weather and soils, and it prospered while Wheat struggled.  When the settlers discovered that Corn could be eaten fresh, could be dried and stored, could be fed to their livestock and even made into whiskey, the scales tipped in Corn’s favor.