Fresh and golden corn on the cob is one of the most iconic examples of American produce, and a staple of the southern diet. Texas Chicken & Burgers is proud to feature corn on the cob as one of our delectable side dishes available to all of our customers; and in this blog post, we’ll go into detail regarding some of the history of this crunchy and savory crowd favorite.
Corn is a seed, similar to wheat or rice, that originates from a Mexican wild grass called teosinte. Corn is full of carbohydrates, but contains less protein than barley or wheat. It also features vitamins like Vitamin B and Vitamin D.
Early Corn Farming
Corn started to get farmed agriculturally - rather than simply picked from the wild - around the year 7,500 BC in Mexico, slightly after the start of avocado and squash farming. Corn plants were bred through specialized techniques to have larger ears, more kernels, and a more mouth friendly bite texture - as well as less leaves. By the year 6000 BC, corn was being grown in Ecuador - and by 1 AD, North America’s Pueblo people were doing the same.
Tortillas, Popcorn, Cornmeal
Corn was eaten fresh during it’s ripe Summer state through techniques like boiling, roasting - and even through the creation of popcorn. However, the most common technique involved drying the kernels, crushing them into cornmeal, and using the cornmeal to make tortillas. Tortillas were filled with vegetables and bean mush making the original taco! Cornmeal could be stored and eaten throughout the year - and it was even used to make a type of corn oatmeal like pudding by stirring it into boiling water.
Northward Corn Expansion
Soon, the Iroquois people started growing corn around 1000 ad, but they had to change the plant’s growth to fit their colder Northern climate and shorter growing season. Corn only was ripe at the end of the Summer. The Iroquois people boiled corn over flames and mostly used it to make pudding, mush, or soup.
When explorers and invaders from Spain and Portugal got to Mexico at the end of the 15th century, they brought corn to Europe. At first, it was used to feed cows there. Then corn was sold to farmers in West Africa, and quickly became a staple food - eventually becoming grown throughout China, India, and East Africa by the next century!
The British settlers of the 1500s were shown by Iroquois peoples and those of other Native American tribes how to grow corn. They mostly subsisted out of corn pudding, but also began making the cornmeal into cornbread. English traders in the early 17th century kidnapped a Native Patuxet man named Tisquantum when he greeted them, and brought him to England and taught him English. When he finally got back to America in 1620, he found his entire tribe had perished from diseases brought by the English that they had lessened immunity to. His loneliness encouraged him to settle with the Pilgrims upon their nearby arrival in 1621, where he taught them how to farm corn in the empty corn fields in the area.
Today’s Uses of Corn
Besides corn on the cob, corn is used in TONS of agricultural and culinary exercises today. Corn syrup is used to sweeten millions of consumer food products from breakfast cereal to Coca Cola. However, there’s tons of people who consume corn the way it used to be, made into tortillas - there’s been a special interest in a unique technique called nixtamalization of late, that involves the curing of corn in limewater. This makes for an excellent tortilla. And all that isn’t even to mention the massive pop culture impact of popcorn, one of America’s oldest and most favorite snack foods.