What is corn?

Corn field

What is corn? It is so easy to answer and know about it. We all must be too familiar with corn, for it is the most popular food plants in the world. The corn annual quantity of the world market is nearly thousand million of tons. It is used widely around the world as food or to produce may other products in the industry.

What is corn – do we truly know about it?

Although we all can reply fast for the question what is corn, but not all of us who know truly all interesting details related to this popular grain in the grain list and grain products. Corn or maize is grain plant of Zea genus. The plant stems are straight and about 2.5-3m high (some natural plants could be high up to 12m) with long leaves. Corn plants are not good as cold resistance. In the areas with cold climates, they are usually cultivated in the spring. The corn flowers will grow from above some of the leaves. The temperature of the flowering must be from 10oC (50oF). The corn flowers are especially sensitive to the tolerance when they prepare to be fruited.

The corn fruits (or ears) are surrounded by many leaves-liked layers. The corn seeds or kernels are actually small fruits which are separate as caryopsis. These seeds are about as pea size and grow in rows steady around white pith. The color of those kernels could be from white, yellow, red, purple, green, bluish-gray, blackish or even multicolored.

History of corn


Although the appearance and domestication of corn is rather complicated and there were different theories about this, corn is believed to native to Mexico of the America.

The plants had been domesticated and cultivated about 5500 – 10000 years BC. It was spread to the US about 2100 years BC and then continued its journey to the other areas of the north. About 9th century EC, it was known and cultivated in eastern North America and Canada. A large scale of forest and grassland area was cleared by the Natives to plant corn at that time.

From 15th, 16th century, maize was spread strongly to Europe and Africa. Later then, it was widely planted and traded to other countries around the world.

Till now, maize or corn is the most popular grain in the world, especially in the America.

Corn as human food

Corn seeds are rich in nutrients and minerals especially vitamin B. A 100gr of this grain provides about 1/10 to 1/5 daily value of vitamin B, B5, thiamin, niacin, folate and numbers of minerals as magnesium, phosphorus and essential minerals.

This kernel runs as staple food to many areas as the America and Africa. To other countries, it’s also used to make thousand of dishes. In the variety types of food in the world, corn has been joined as whole ears, whole kernels or portions. Corn flour is widely used whole or part in making cakes, breads, candies, snacks, cornflakes, popcorns, savory or sweet dishes…Baby corns are also popular as vegetable in culinary.

Besides, corn is used to produce cooking oil and syrups. In some areas, it is also an ingredient to be fermented to alcohol and beer.

Corn in the world industry

Corn in harvesting time
Corn in harvesting time

Maize is an important source in producing food for livestock and animals. Beside the food products, corn could be feed as forage or silage.

In the industry, maize starch had been joined to manufacture plastics, fabrics, adhesives and many other products.

A remarkable application of corn to the industry is the value of this plant to produce ethanol fuel, which could be mixed with gasoline to feed the fuel motor vehicles, especially in America and Europe. This bio-fuel is a kind of friendly gasoline, which could reduce the pollutants to the environment. The fuel producing cost is also reduced for the cheap prize of corn. And an indirect affection to the farmers is that the prize of maize would be increased too.

Due to its good affect, this type of fuel tends to be increase in using in the future. Typically for the US, the target of 35 billion gallons of bio-fuel in 2017 has been planed. This number is accounted to increase 5 times to 2010.

Besides the important usages to the industry, corn is also cultivated as ornamental plants. Or the kernels are used to replace to sand at children playground (usually called sandbox)…and many other applications from different cultures.

And now what is corn – the question becomes to us simpler and easier than the case before right?