Corn, or maize, is a plant that I always knew growing up as a vegetable (in the form of sweet corn), but is actually a grain.

The plant is native to the Americas, and first began to be cultivated by Mesoamericans in southern Mexico.

  • sweet corn: this is when the plants are harvested well before ripeness, so the seeds are still soft and juicy
  • field corn: this is when the plants are harvested long after ripeness, so the seeds are dried out and hard and need to be crushed to make a grain

Different varieties are grown depending on the intended use of the corn: sweet corn is, naturally, sweeter than field corn. The traditional type of sweet corn was 10–15% sugar but lost 50% of that sugar within 24 hours of being picked, so it didn’t stand up well to modern logistics. In the 1950s, some scientist accidentally crossbred new varieties of corn that made way more sugar (35–40%) and no phytoglycogen. They didn’t get popular until the 1980s because they initially were really hard to grow (without as much starch the seeds didn’t have much sustenance). Now, they’re everywhere in the US – to the point it’s hard to find the original varieties. Scientists have improved the texture of this new sweet corn already from the 80s and are continuing to work on improving.

In the US, only 1% of corn grown is sweet corn; the rest is field. Elsewhere in the world, it’s a similarly large proportion (maybe even greater?) grown as field corn. The US does grow a shit-ton of corn, to the point that they’re the bulk of the material used in cheap mass-produced foods like breakfast cereals or other processed foods.

SwiftOnSecurity, on Twitter, tweets a lot about how virtually all processed food in the US is made from corn, lmao. Here is a thread on /r/Cook­ing(external link) which also goes into that topic.