MAIZE, OUR BREAD
Maize, known in many English-speaking countries as corn, is a grass domesticated by indigenous peoples in Mesoamerica in prehistoric times. The Aztecs and Mayans cultivated it in numerous varieties throughout central and southern Mexico, to cook or grind in a process called nixtamalization. Later the crop spread through much of the Americas. Between 1250 A.D. and 1700 A.D. nearly the whole continent had gained access to the crop. Any significant or dense populations in the region developed a great trade network based on surplus and varieties of maize crops. After European contact with the Americas in the late 15th and early 16th centuries, explorers and traders carried maize back to Europe and introduced it to other countries through trade. Its ability to grow in distinct climates, and its use were highly valued, thus spreading to the rest of the world. Maize is the most widely grown crop in the Americas with 332 million metric tons grown annually in the United States alone.
Nixtamalization typically refers to a process for the preparation of maize (corn), in which the grain is soaked and cooked in an alkaline solution, usually limewater, and hulled. In the Aztec language Nahuatl, the word for the product of this procedure is nixtamalli, it is a compound of nextli ""ashes"" and tamalli ""dough"". This process is indispensable for the use of corn as food because without it the nutrients niacin and lysine are not released, which in a corn intensive diet leads to a malnutrition illness called pellagra.
The term maize derives from the Spanish form of the indigenous Taino word mahis, which means sustenance. The Greek word zea means life, therefore the scientific name of corn, Zea mays, means life's sustenance to refer to the importance given to its cultivation by pre-Columbian societies. Maize originated about 9000 years ago in what is today the state of Oaxaca in southeastern Mexico, most of the scientific evidence points to a process of hybridization of wild species of plants carried out by indigenous populations.
Throughout Latin America corn can be found in many forms: corn on the husk (jojoto, elote, choclo), fresh corn kernels, fresh corn dough (masa de maiz), corn flour, corn meal, corn starch and canned corn kernels. There is an enormous variety of recipes with corn as the main ingredient, here I will give you some that are very simple and very common throughout Latin America.
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Zea mays
ENGLISH NAME: Corn, Maize
LOCAL NAMES: Maiz, elote, choclo, sara, milho (brazil)
STORING: Fresh corn kernels do not keep long, they can spoil easily unless they are freezed. Dry corn kernels can keep a long time in a cool dry place, to keep bugs away you place black peppercorns or hot chilies in the grain.