Mother Nature's Pop Science Guide To Corn (Maize)
Field of dreams
- Corn structure: 1) Prop roots; 2) Ear: Each strand of silk is connected to the 800 or so kernels inside an ear of corn; 3) Husk; 4) Silk; 5) Leaf; 6) Tassel; 7) Average ear: 8 in (20.3 cm) long; 8) Average corn stalk height: 8 ft (2.4
- Cross-section of a kernel. Each of corn with the silk and outer husk removed.
- Corn field.
- Dent corn: when fully ripe, it has a pronounced dent at the crown of the kernels.
- Flint corn: Also called "Indian corn" since it was cultivated by Native Americans.
- Sweet corn: A variety with a sugar content, it is commonly eaten fresh.
- Popcorn: When popped, it's a popular snack at movie theaters and sporting events.
- Flour corn: Composed largely of soft starch, it has easily ground, mealy kernels.
- Pod cord: A variety that has each individual kernel enclosed in a husk.
- One of the most versatile grains, corn can be cooked, stewed, dried and ground into many different culinary and industrial products: 1) Corn bread mix; 2) Baby corn; 3) Corn chowder; 4) Hominy; 5) Creamed corn; 6) Cornstarch;
7) Mother's old-fashioned gifts; 8) Polenta; 9) Corn oil; 10) Corn syrup; 11) Animal feed; 12) Crunchy corn flakes; 13) Ethanol; 14) Bourbon whiskey; 15) Glue; 16) Penicillin.
- Only popcorn kernels can pop. Each kernel contains a small amount of water stored in the soft starch inside the hard outer casing.
- When heated to around 450° F, the moisture turns to steam, creating pressure within.
- The casing gives way and the kernel explodes, releasing steam and turning the kernel inside out. Now the popcorn is ready to set.
- Throughout the centuries, corn has been the object of worship, prosperity, discovery and celebration.
- Corn originates in central America, where the Olmec and Maya cultivated the tall grain in numerous varieties throughout Mesoamerica and worshipped it in the form of their Tonsured Maize God. The Aztecs also had their own maize
deities, Centeotl and Chicomecoatl.
- Corn was spread throughout the Western Hemisphere by various Native Americans. Early European explorers were enlightened about the New World grain in the 15th and 16th centuries, and later introduced it to other parts of the
world because of its ability to grow in diverse climates.
- The American "Corn Belt", the area of land with the highest yield of corn, stretches from North Dakota to Ohio. It is such a way of life in the American Midwest that even the University of Nebraska's mascot is called "The
- The Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota, was originally built to showcase the state's rich soil and encourage people to settle the area. It's now a popular tourist destination decorated with crop art murals and designs made from
real corn and other grains.
- Corn's health benefits include a rich source of vitamins and nutrients, including folic acid, niacin and vitamin C. High in fiber, it is also believed to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer, hemorrhoids and heart disease.
Infographic & design: Chris Rooney (@looneyrooneycom)/MNN | Sources: Betty Fussell's "The Story of Corn"; Gail Gibbons "Corn"; Charles Micucci's "The Life and Times of Corn"; Home.howstuffworks.com/corn3.htm;