The New Student's Reference Work/Corn, Indian


Corn, Indian, or Maize, the original name of corn or Zea Mays, a species of the grass family. Corn is said to have become the most important food-plant, next to rice. It is now almost unanimously conceded that it originated in America and is probably native to Mexico. Corn was found in cultivation by the Indians upon the discovery of America, and has continued to be called Indian corn; in fact the name maize is seldom used in America. Although very numerous varieties have been developed, they are all considered to have been derived from a single species. The commonly used classification is as follows: pod-corns, pop-corns, flint-corns, dent-corns, soft-corns, sweet or sugar-corns, starchy sweet-corns. Sweet corn is distinguished from the ordinary field-varieties by its wrinkled or shriveled kernel and its somewhat translucent appearance. The pop-corn is characterized by the excessive development of the horny region of the endosperm and by the very small size of the kernels and ears. Corn is hardly less a staple food than is rice in tropical countries, while in colder countries it is rapidly becoming popular. It is thought to be more nutritious than barley, buckwheat or rye. It is more generally used in America than in other continents. In the United States the annual crop is over 2,700,000,000 bushels, or about two thirds of all the grains grown. When coarsely ground, corn forms hominy; when finely ground, corn-meal. Pop-corn is a variety whose grains, when roasted, swell and burst, turning inside out. However, the greatest use of corn in America, is as a food for cattle, sheep and hogs. Large quantities of starch are made from corn. This is used for food and for laundry-work, while a good part of it is made into grape-sugar or glucose. The dried leaves and stalks of corn furnish a supply of cattle-fodder. The husks are used for packing and for mattresses; while in South America they are also used for cigarettes. The cobs make popular pipe-bowls for tobacco. Corn was introduced into Europe by Columbus; but there is good ground for believing that the maize plant was known in Asia and Africa before that time.