Maize was domesticated by the Amerindians 7,000 years ago from a wild grass originally growing in Central America. Several varieties were bred and developed, and as one of the major food sources its cultivation was closely interwoven with religious symbolism. Maize was depicted in pottery, weavings and temple walls.
In North America corn was first cultivated in the southeast and southwest, but gradually varieties better suited to the shorter growing season of the north were developed. Corn was dried and carefully stored for winter use. Ground maize also provided an excellent, concentrated traveling food.
Today, hybrid field corn grown by giant agribusiness bears little resemblance to the original plant, it is the raw material used in hundreds of processed products. The small percentage of this corn which gets processed into cornmeal, grits, polenta etc, have had the skin and germ removed to prolong its shelf life. Needless to say, it has absolutely no flavor nor much of its original nutrients.
But there are small-scale farmers who maintain heirloom maize varieties, some for their superb flavor, others because they are better suited for their livestock's needs.
Ground corn is usually called "hominy" or "hominy grits". South easterners like their grits with butter, cured ham, fried fish and just about everything else. South westerners grind hominy further to make tamales and tortillas. Corn bread and corn pudding, grainy, crunchy and sweet, deserve to be made with the real thing.
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