Wednesday, July 9, 2014

My Sweet Corn and the Aztec Empire

Did you know we owe the delights of modern sweet corn to Aztec Empire about a thousand years ago. They developed a wild grass species with an ear on top into the modern multi-ears maize stalk we have today.

Corn was a staple of the Aztec people located in central Mexico and is still popular with peoples in this region today.

So why did corn get such a prominent place in the Aztec empire instead of watermelon, cabbage, or broccoli?

Corn has the ability to utilize sunlight and water more efficiently than some of the other common food crops. This is call C4 photosynthesis. Corn as a C4 plant fixes C02 to four carbon atoms before photosynthesis. C4 plants are better adapted to high temperatures, lack of rain, intense sunlight, lack of nitrogen and low C02 availability.

They may not have known the horticultural reason, but It is this extra boost of efficiency that the Aztecs used to their advantage.

Through hundreds of years of adaption they selected for multi ears and sweetness.

I grew some multi-colored corn much like what the Aztecs grew early in my gardening endeavors and it tasted pretty good if you picked it at the right stage and ate it fresh from the field.

Today modern genetics have given us super sweet corn for eating but it all started with the Aztecs.

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