There Is More to Corn than Popcorn and Corn on the Cob!
Corn or maize (Zea mays subsp. mays) is a versatile plant that is part of the grass family or Poaceae. Corn was domesticated in what is now Mexico around 6000 years ago, from a weed called teosinte. While corn and teosinte share many features, the “cob” present in corn is a unique type of spike where many grains or kernels are inserted. Some of the most notable differences between teosinte and corn are due to the human selection of mutant variants of teosinte in a handful of genes. While corn is dependent in human assistance for its survival, many Pre-Columbian civilizations relied on it for their nutrition. Nowadays, corn continues to be one of the most important grain crops in the world and a central part of the diet of many people. In some cases it is used as an additive, and in some places like Mexico, Central America, Colombia and some African countries, as the central component of their cuisine. Such diverse cuisine relies, in turn, on the use of hundreds of different maize landraces, which have different agronomic needs as well as color, size and flavor. In the American continent, landraces are kept and actively selected upon by peasants. These landraces and the agroecological systems they are grown in are a fundamental reservoir of genetic diversity that needs to be acknowledged and protected, in the midst of environmental uncertainty derived from climate change.