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MAIZE Project - Kernels of Knowledge

  • Maize, especially cornmeal, is a staple food in many cultures around the world. Examples of corn in different cultural cuisines include polenta in Italy, masa in Central and South America, and hominy grits in the Southeastern United States.
  • Some farmers carve “Maize Mazes” into cornfields during the fall harvest season. These cornfield labyrinths are open to the public for autumn-time entertainment, especially around Halloween.
  • A palace made of corn is located in Mitchell, South Dakota. The murals on the Corn Palace are created by artists and require thousands of bushels of corn to construct. Each year the corn is replaced because the murals weather over time, partly because local bird populations feed on the designs!
  • Corn was a staple food crop among the Aztec people of Mesoamerica and was so important that they had several deities devoted to ensuring the success of the harvest. These deities include Centeotl and Chicomecoatl, considered the principal god and goddess of maize. Maize deities are also found in other Native American cultures.
  • One major use of corn is to make sweeteners such as corn syrup. Check out the nutrition labels of many common food products and you will be surprised by how many contain corn syrup!
  • Maize was used by native Andeans to make chicha, a fermented beverage that was a dietary staple. Chicha was also used for ceremonial purposes by South American groups.
  • The cobs of early maize varieties were tiny and measured less than two inches long. These primitive varieties also had fewer rows of kernels per cob and fewer kernels per row.
  • Piki, a bread made from blue cornmeal, is traditionally used by Hopi women to propose marriage to a man.
  • Several types of maize are grown around the world in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and colors. Different colors of corn include white, yellow, brick-red, and blue-black. Some types of corn, like those used for decorative purposes around Thanksgiving, produce individual cobs with different colored kernels!
  • Corn is the leading U.S. field crop with the highest volume produced annually.
  • A large percentage (approximately 60%) of corn grown in the U.S. is fed to livestock.
  • Maize is used to make certain kinds of grain alcohol, such as bourbon, by fermenting and distilling the grain.
  • The “Corn Belt” is a region in the Midwestern United States where maize is the dominant agricultural crop. The Corn Belt includes the states of Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, and parts of Kentucky, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.
  • Maize is in the family of plants commonly known as grasses. It is related to other familiar types of grasses including lawn grasses, bamboo, sugarcane, and other staple crops such as wheat and rice.
  • Have you ever heard of eco-fashion? Some corn products are used to manufacture biodegradable fibers that are used to make clothing, such as t-shirts, and other eco-friendly synthetic textile products.