When I drove through northern Iowa last summer, I was amazed at how much corn I saw. For miles, corn fields stretched in every direction. I had always known that corn syrup was in a lot of our food, but I didn’t really understand the extent of its influence. Inspired by all of this food discussion, I decided to learn a bit more about this versatile crop.
According to Wikipedia (hate all you want) maize was first transformed from a useless grass into a commodity crop with the help of the Mayans and Olmecs in Central America. Over time, it was spread throughout the Americas. After Europeans made contact in the 15th and 16th centuries, the crop was brought back to Europe, where people discovered it could be grown in a variety of climates. Today, there are two main kinds of corn: sweet corn and field corn. Sweet corn accounts for about 85% of the crop in the United States and is grown largely for human consumption. Field corn, which makes up the other 15%, is intended for animal fodder.
In addition to being the main ingredient of popcorn, ethanol, and grits, corn is also found in ascorbic acid, calcium citrate, cellulose, citrate, citric acid, dextrin, dextrose, malt, maltodextrin…the list goes on. Essentially, it’s in nearly everything.
You might ask, “What’s wrong with that? Corn is good for you.” That was my initial reaction, too. I’m not an expert, but I do know cattle are being fed corn instead of grass because it fattens the animals up faster. I haven’t even mentioned high-fructose corn syrup yet.
If you’re interested, you can find more information about maize here.