Corn or Maize

In the United States, corn is the name applied to the seed of the maize plant, which is a highly developed grass plant that forms the largest single crop in the Americas (332 million metric tons annually in the United States alone).

The seeds of this plant grow on a woody cob, and are eaten as a vegetable when they are soft and milky, but as a grain, or cereal, when they are mature.

Corn is native to America and was not known in Europe until Columbus took it back with him. However, it did not meet with much favor there, for it was not grown to any great extent until within the last 120 years. Those who took it to Europe gave it the name Indian corn, because they had found the Indians of America raising it.

The term maize derives from the Spanish form of the indigenous Taino word maiz for the plant. This was the term used in the United Kingdom and Ireland, where it is now usually called "sweet corn", the most common form of the plant known to people there.

Maize is widely cultivated throughout the world, and a greater weight of maize is produced each year than any other grain. While the United States produces almost half of the world's harvest (~42.5%), other top producing countries include China, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, India and France. Worldwide production was around 800 million tonnes in 2007—just slightly more than rice (~650 million tonnes) or wheat (~600 million tonnes).

Of the corn grown in the United States, there are three general kinds: field corn, sweet corn, and pop corn. Field corn, as a rule, is grown in large quantities and allowed to mature; then it is fed to animals or ground and cooked for the use of man. This corn consists of three varieties, which are distinguished by the color of the grain, one being white, one yellow, and one red. All of them are made into a variety of preparations, but the white and the yellow are used as food for both man and animals, whereas red field corn is used exclusively for animal food.

Many of the maize varieties grown in the United States and Canada today are hybrids. Often the varieties have been genetically modified to tolerate glyphosate or to provide protection against natural pests.

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Did You Know?
The word corn has been applied to various grains and is now used in a variety of ways in different countries.

In ancient times, barley was called corn, and at the present time, in some countries, the entire year's food crop is referred to by this name.

The English were applying the name corn to wheat, and the Scotch, to oats.

In North America, its meaning has been restricted since the 19th century to maize, as it was shortened from "Indian corn." The term Indian corn now refers specifically to multi-colored "field corn" (flint corn) cultivars.

Outside the British Isles, another common term for maize is "corn". This was originally the English term for any cereal crop.

In scientific and formal usage, "maize" is normally used in a global context. Equally, in bulk-trading contexts, "corn" is used most frequently. In the UK, Australia and other English-speaking countries, the word "corn" is often used in culinary contexts, particularly in naming products such as popcorn and corn flakes. "Maize" is used in agricultural and scientific references.

In Southern Africa, maize is commonly referred to as mielie or mealie, from the Portuguese milho. Mielie-meal is the ground form.

Glyphosate (trade name Roundup) is an herbicide which kills all plants except those with genetic tolerance. This genetic tolerance is very rarely found in nature.