Wednesday, July 8, 2009


There is quite a bit happening in the garden this week. Flowers have opened, fruit is forming and other crops are finishing off. The crop that I would like to talk about is the pop corn.

Although we have grown corn in the past. We have usually grown a decorative Indian corn for fall displays. Corn is an interesting garden plant. Its closest relative is a grass plant called teosinte. It is believed that approximately 7000 years ago people in Mexico began to cultivate teosinte. This cultivation slowly changed this simple plant into the vegetable we know as corn. Corn or maize is a new world plant, until Columbus came to the Americas no one in Europe had ever seen corn. Yet once the discovery was made it did not take long for corn to become one of the most popular crops in the world. By the 1600's corn had made its way not only to Europe, but Asia as well.

Corn has two distinct flowers on it. These two flowers are the male flowers and the female flowers. The male flowers (pictured below) are commonly refer ed to as the tassel. They are situated at the top of the plant. The structures that look like grains of rice are called the anthers. It is here in the anthers that the pollen is held and then released at the appropriate time.

The female flowers are located about midway between the ground and the tassels. Normally the male flowers and the female flowers mature at a different rate to help ensure that self pollination does not occur. When the pollen from the male flowers fall onto the silks of immature ears of corn the pollen slowly makes it way up the silk. Each silk is located to a separate flower on the ear of the corn. Once the flower is pollinated and the ovary in the female flower begins to make a seed or kernel of corn. Each silk or flower that is pollinated will make a kernel of corn. Hence when you see an ear of corn that is missing some kernels you know that not all of the flowers were pollinated.

The word maize was derived from the Native American word for corn, mahiz which literally means, "that which sustains us". This is an apt name for a plant that is literally in just about every product on the shelves in a grocery store. Mahiz is literally the backbone of not only our food but also our economy.

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