1

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Why is corn a grain? The native americans did corn - not sure if they count as the "agricultural era

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created August 29, 2011 at 4:29 PM

Someone posted this on my facebook fan page a few weeks ago...

"Why is corn a grain? that's another question I just thought of. the native americans did corn - not sure if they count as the "agricultural era."

I would love to read your thoughts! I'll chime in and comment later today or tomorrow.

A heads up... I will be quoting my favorite responses in a blog post and will be linking back here!

1471beca8e3adff4ae2f89d10e5f7acb

(6550)

on December 04, 2011
at 07:21 PM

1491 is *fantastic*!

15e684f6f716f88c99f641098a6e06ca

(922)

on December 04, 2011
at 07:20 PM

this is a source of some controversy. the book 1491 presents a case worth looking at, that many archaeologists now believe migration started about 30,000 years ago. there is evidence of civilizations in meso-america from some 15,000 years ago when the old theory suggests the warming of the bering area was just starting to happen.

15e684f6f716f88c99f641098a6e06ca

(922)

on December 04, 2011
at 07:11 PM

+1 to Lindsay! I'm in the middle of a great book on this very topic. It's called 1491, about how Indians were far more advanced, far more numerous, and far more established in the Americas than conventional wisdom says. Highly recommended. http://www.amazon.com/1491-Revelations-Americas-Before-Columbus/dp/1400032059/ref=tmm_pap_title_0

Medium avatar

(10611)

on December 04, 2011
at 06:27 PM

The minds that came up with farming in America were the same as those that came up with farming in Asia. They were beyond paleo. They didn't bring rice across the Bering, or taro from Polynesia, but what they did with corn and potatoes bears a remarkable similarity. Growing tobacco and smoking it is another matter.

78fcdeee6ac4ee7d071bbac56b9e359f

(1035)

on December 04, 2011
at 06:06 PM

Can you explain what you mean? Are you saying that all native americans migrated here less than 10,000 yrs ago and wouldn't have come up with farming by their own volition?

1f8384be58052b6b96f476e475abdc74

(2231)

on December 04, 2011
at 05:33 PM

i have been reading about nicotine, based on genetic background that stuffs good!

E87e6799f0aa0a3f8f3072cbb3c1fe53

(80)

on December 04, 2011
at 05:13 PM

I think you hit the nail on the head about white folks perceiving American Indians as "noble savages" and therefore thinking they are stuck in a pre-agricultural era. Its a shame the history classes our kids get simplifies down complex and beautiful societies to pre-European "savagery"

Medium avatar

(10611)

on December 04, 2011
at 05:04 PM

And what about the wonder diet drug tobacco? There's a very strong correlation between the decline in smoking and the rise in obesity. Theories about fructose and obesity are incomplete without considering nicotine.

386dde6de2e7f33429e9a0ac1ba8ce42

(263)

on September 02, 2011
at 02:08 PM

I also want to point out that I said "were" when talking about the three sisters... I should say "are" - these are still grown in combination today. Of course, the corn growing in Southern Mexico today is NOT the same corn growing in most of America. It is more nutritionally sound than the cow corn that gets sent off to make syrup and feed, but WAY less sweet than the stuff eaten right off the cob north of the border. Aside from tortillas and other ground corn foods like tamales, the veg is often boiled, covered with mayo, cheese, spicy peppers and lime - the fruit) and eaten off the cob.

386dde6de2e7f33429e9a0ac1ba8ce42

(263)

on September 02, 2011
at 02:07 PM

I also want to point out that I said "were" when talking about the three sisters... I should say "are" - these three are still grown in combination today on a LOT of land. Of course, the corn growing in Southern Mexico today is NOT the same corn growing in most of America. It is more nutritionally sound than the cow corn that gets sent off to make syrup and feed, but WAY less sweet than the stuff eaten right off the cob. Aside from tortillas and other ground corn foods like tamales, the veg is often boiled, covered with mayo, cheese, spicy peppers and lime - the fruit) and eaten off the cob.

386dde6de2e7f33429e9a0ac1ba8ce42

(263)

on August 31, 2011
at 03:19 PM

Ah yes.... Rumor has it that the only reason that Aztecs (who had already conquered most of Norther MesoAmerica and were already receiving bulk amounts of food, grains and precious items as tribute from other tribes) were able to be conquered so "easily" by the Spanish is because they had already begun chopping down their sacred forests to make way for agriculture.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on August 29, 2011
at 07:22 PM

wonderful answer.

7c9f81d68c78de1a31eab9c91c17b4b8

on August 29, 2011
at 05:18 PM

Your answer made me hopeful I could hang on to my beloved cheetoes but alas...they are gone forever.

1471beca8e3adff4ae2f89d10e5f7acb

(6550)

on August 29, 2011
at 04:55 PM

Anyway, I eat corn in small amounts and am fine with it, but when I gorge on tortillas de maíz I definitely feel suboptimal.

1471beca8e3adff4ae2f89d10e5f7acb

(6550)

on August 29, 2011
at 04:50 PM

The nitrogen-fixing aspect of the beans helped reduce the soil damage caused by the intensive corn agriculture. It's pretty brilliant, actually, but, you know, the native Mesoamericans were a pretty brilliant people.

0dbd7154d909b97fe774d1655754f195

(16131)

on August 29, 2011
at 04:48 PM

I am by no means an expert on this, but I find this type of companion planting beautiful. The corn would trellis the beans and the squash would provide ground cover. Oh yeah, a rotten fish at the bottom for that extra something.

1471beca8e3adff4ae2f89d10e5f7acb

(6550)

on August 29, 2011
at 04:43 PM

Yep, and that sort of indigenous polyculture was wickedly successful (in terms of creating a food source for rapidly growing societies, not necessarily in terms of nutrition).

0dbd7154d909b97fe774d1655754f195

(16131)

on August 29, 2011
at 04:41 PM

Aren't the "Three sisters" corn, beans and squash?

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8 Answers

best answer

17
1471beca8e3adff4ae2f89d10e5f7acb

on August 29, 2011
at 04:38 PM

Uhm, indigenous Americans not only had agriculture but built massive empires based on corn crops. The Aztec and Incan civilizations would have given Rome a run for its money at their height. This sort of thing requires agriculture.

Grains are the nominally edible seeds of grasses, which, surprise surprise, includes corn.

I am so very holding my tongue here about the weird perceptions people have about indigenous Americans being noble savages living in peaceful, non-"civilized" harmony with the land (and apparently lacking agriculture?!).

1471beca8e3adff4ae2f89d10e5f7acb

(6550)

on August 29, 2011
at 04:50 PM

The nitrogen-fixing aspect of the beans helped reduce the soil damage caused by the intensive corn agriculture. It's pretty brilliant, actually, but, you know, the native Mesoamericans were a pretty brilliant people.

1471beca8e3adff4ae2f89d10e5f7acb

(6550)

on August 29, 2011
at 04:55 PM

Anyway, I eat corn in small amounts and am fine with it, but when I gorge on tortillas de maíz I definitely feel suboptimal.

0dbd7154d909b97fe774d1655754f195

(16131)

on August 29, 2011
at 04:48 PM

I am by no means an expert on this, but I find this type of companion planting beautiful. The corn would trellis the beans and the squash would provide ground cover. Oh yeah, a rotten fish at the bottom for that extra something.

0dbd7154d909b97fe774d1655754f195

(16131)

on August 29, 2011
at 04:41 PM

Aren't the "Three sisters" corn, beans and squash?

1471beca8e3adff4ae2f89d10e5f7acb

(6550)

on August 29, 2011
at 04:43 PM

Yep, and that sort of indigenous polyculture was wickedly successful (in terms of creating a food source for rapidly growing societies, not necessarily in terms of nutrition).

E87e6799f0aa0a3f8f3072cbb3c1fe53

(80)

on December 04, 2011
at 05:13 PM

I think you hit the nail on the head about white folks perceiving American Indians as "noble savages" and therefore thinking they are stuck in a pre-agricultural era. Its a shame the history classes our kids get simplifies down complex and beautiful societies to pre-European "savagery"

1f8384be58052b6b96f476e475abdc74

(2231)

on December 04, 2011
at 05:33 PM

i have been reading about nicotine, based on genetic background that stuffs good!

Medium avatar

(10611)

on December 04, 2011
at 05:04 PM

And what about the wonder diet drug tobacco? There's a very strong correlation between the decline in smoking and the rise in obesity. Theories about fructose and obesity are incomplete without considering nicotine.

1471beca8e3adff4ae2f89d10e5f7acb

(6550)

on December 04, 2011
at 07:21 PM

1491 is *fantastic*!

15e684f6f716f88c99f641098a6e06ca

(922)

on December 04, 2011
at 07:11 PM

+1 to Lindsay! I'm in the middle of a great book on this very topic. It's called 1491, about how Indians were far more advanced, far more numerous, and far more established in the Americas than conventional wisdom says. Highly recommended. http://www.amazon.com/1491-Revelations-Americas-Before-Columbus/dp/1400032059/ref=tmm_pap_title_0

best answer

10
386dde6de2e7f33429e9a0ac1ba8ce42

(263)

on August 29, 2011
at 06:59 PM

Corn does grow from a grass, quite a small one called teosinte. It is a small grass that produces hard-to-get-at, TINY grains and was genetically cultured into the grain we know today.

Most of the peoples in MesoAmerica and North American treated their corn grains, however. Even today, a real tortilla is made by first soaking the corn in a lime (the stone, not the fruit) solution to break down the anti-nutrients and free up the good stuff to make it more edible. The corn is then drained, ground into a dough and made into the thin flatbreads that are then cooked over a hot fire on a stone surface.

Also, as to the three sisters, the squash was very important because it provided the greens! The leaves and flowers were eaten just as much, if not more so than the fruit itself. The fruits were of course often used to make dishes and other container-type tools. Beans were often treated the same was as corn, soaking and fermenting them. Sprouting certainly occurred as well. Corn was also used as the basis of some fermented drinks, though most in the South came from the agave instead (pulque is my favorite).

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on August 29, 2011
at 07:22 PM

wonderful answer.

386dde6de2e7f33429e9a0ac1ba8ce42

(263)

on September 02, 2011
at 02:07 PM

I also want to point out that I said "were" when talking about the three sisters... I should say "are" - these three are still grown in combination today on a LOT of land. Of course, the corn growing in Southern Mexico today is NOT the same corn growing in most of America. It is more nutritionally sound than the cow corn that gets sent off to make syrup and feed, but WAY less sweet than the stuff eaten right off the cob. Aside from tortillas and other ground corn foods like tamales, the veg is often boiled, covered with mayo, cheese, spicy peppers and lime - the fruit) and eaten off the cob.

386dde6de2e7f33429e9a0ac1ba8ce42

(263)

on September 02, 2011
at 02:08 PM

I also want to point out that I said "were" when talking about the three sisters... I should say "are" - these are still grown in combination today. Of course, the corn growing in Southern Mexico today is NOT the same corn growing in most of America. It is more nutritionally sound than the cow corn that gets sent off to make syrup and feed, but WAY less sweet than the stuff eaten right off the cob north of the border. Aside from tortillas and other ground corn foods like tamales, the veg is often boiled, covered with mayo, cheese, spicy peppers and lime - the fruit) and eaten off the cob.

1
8d454fc50d6d58643d6f8b0d1e7ea8ea

on August 29, 2011
at 07:26 PM

According to this book, Native Americans engineered corn and were very, very much involved in agriculture, to the point that their civilizations were somewhat destroyed before they were "discovered" by the European explorers.

386dde6de2e7f33429e9a0ac1ba8ce42

(263)

on August 31, 2011
at 03:19 PM

Ah yes.... Rumor has it that the only reason that Aztecs (who had already conquered most of Norther MesoAmerica and were already receiving bulk amounts of food, grains and precious items as tribute from other tribes) were able to be conquered so "easily" by the Spanish is because they had already begun chopping down their sacred forests to make way for agriculture.

1
A6e2b231f69366ce825476c5a6dcfff6

(1967)

on August 29, 2011
at 04:47 PM

While corn is technically a grain, i eat it on or immediately off the cob. I usually have it about once a week in season.

Corn products on the other hand, I won't touch them.

7c9f81d68c78de1a31eab9c91c17b4b8

on August 29, 2011
at 05:18 PM

Your answer made me hopeful I could hang on to my beloved cheetoes but alas...they are gone forever.

1
99a6e964584f20f3f69ad3a70a335353

(1334)

on August 29, 2011
at 04:39 PM

It's a member of the botanical family Poaceae cultivated for the edibility of its seeds. That makes it a cereal grain.

0
Medium avatar

(10611)

on December 04, 2011
at 04:55 PM

American natives are Asiatic neolithics. Farming - whether corn in Mexico or potatoes in the Andes - is a "transplanted" activity.

15e684f6f716f88c99f641098a6e06ca

(922)

on December 04, 2011
at 07:20 PM

this is a source of some controversy. the book 1491 presents a case worth looking at, that many archaeologists now believe migration started about 30,000 years ago. there is evidence of civilizations in meso-america from some 15,000 years ago when the old theory suggests the warming of the bering area was just starting to happen.

78fcdeee6ac4ee7d071bbac56b9e359f

(1035)

on December 04, 2011
at 06:06 PM

Can you explain what you mean? Are you saying that all native americans migrated here less than 10,000 yrs ago and wouldn't have come up with farming by their own volition?

Medium avatar

(10611)

on December 04, 2011
at 06:27 PM

The minds that came up with farming in America were the same as those that came up with farming in Asia. They were beyond paleo. They didn't bring rice across the Bering, or taro from Polynesia, but what they did with corn and potatoes bears a remarkable similarity. Growing tobacco and smoking it is another matter.

0
Fc64db6a555559762432d503a1dbad19

(1478)

on December 04, 2011
at 04:40 PM

Since most corn is genetically modified in the US I wont touch the stuff regardless of if it is a grain or a vegetable. Oh and by the way congress decided that Pizza is now a vegetable so we can all go back to eating pizza again.

Pizza is a vegetable

To add insult to injury our tax dollars are paying for our kids to eat this crap.

0
96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on August 29, 2011
at 04:49 PM

I lack the education to give a scientific answer, but for me corn is very different from wheat. Whether it's sweet corn or nachos, I seem to lack the ability to break down and digest corn--it emerges mostly unchanged. Despite the clear problems I have after wrestling with wheat, I do seem to digest it although with definite consequences.

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