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Tracking the Ancestry of Corn Back 9,000 Years
New York Times ^ | Monday, May 24, 2010 | Sean B. Carroll

Posted on 05/25/2010 6:22:11 PM PDT by SunkenCiv

Tracking the Ancestry of Corn Back 9,000 Years
Many botanists did not see any connection between maize and other living plants. Some concluded that the crop plant arose through the domestication by early agriculturalists of a wild maize that was now extinct, or at least undiscovered. However, a few scientists working during the first part of the 20th century uncovered evidence that they believed linked maize to what, at first glance, would seem to be a very unlikely parent, a Mexican grass called teosinte... George W. Beadle, while a graduate student at Cornell University in the early 1930s, found that maize and teosinte had very similar chromosomes. Moreover, he made fertile hybrids between maize and teosinte that looked like intermediates between the two plants. He even reported that he could get teosinte kernels to pop. Dr. Beadle concluded that the two plants were members of the same species, with maize being the domesticated form of teosinte. Dr. Beadle went on to make other, more fundamental discoveries in genetics for which he shared the Nobel Prize in 1958... botanists led by my colleague John Doebley of the University of Wisconsin... discovered that all maize was genetically most similar to a teosinte type from the tropical Central Balsas River Valley of southern Mexico, suggesting that this region was the "cradle" of maize evolution. Furthermore, by calculating the genetic distance between modern maize and Balsas teosinte, they estimated that domestication occurred about 9,000 years ago.

(Excerpt) Read more at nytimes.com ...


TOPICS: History; Science; Travel
KEYWORDS: agriculture; amazon; animalhusbandry; annaroosevelt; brazil; corn; cornell; dietandcuisine; domestication; food; genetics; georgebeadle; godsgravesglyphs; heehaw; helixmakemineadouble; huntergatherers; maize; normanborlaug; preclovis; sahara; slashandburn; terrapreta; uminn; zeamays
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To: SunkenCiv
My maternal grandfather, James P. Craig, lived and worked in Mexico from the early 1890’s until about the end of 1912. He ran several large-scale logging camps and mine operations in the Sierra Madre and the area of Copper Canyon. His logging crews primarily consisted of Tarahumarra Indians who told him all about “Tiosinto” (and many other herbal remedies as well). The link between “TioSinto” and corn was common knowledge there - though not yet “scientifically” established.

In the 1920’s, it became relatively safe for him to travel there again. He had made some powerful friends and enemies during the Revolution, and by then all were dead, including Villa (who was killed in reprisal for the murders of my grandfathers close friends Maclovio and Louis Herrerra who were high-ranking revolutionaries). He returned in the early 20’s with a group of Botanists from the University of California, San Diego, and spent the better part of year in the canyon guiding them as they cataloged the plant species.

They did extensive research into Tiosinto, and published their findings long ago. I was just a little boy when he died, but I heard about Tiosinto all my life. Hell, I saw a poster on the wall of a chili shop in the mall in Santa Fe 15 years ago of all the different kinds of corn - right at the top - yep..... Tiosinto.

I've always been fascinated with the idea that a “primitive” culture could dedicate the time and resources to develop an entirely new food crop. Given the conditions and limited (nonexistent by our standards) technology of the time. Unless it was the result of a rapid mutation, it probably took generations of farmers to do it.

I agree with an earlier poster about genetic modification. I tell people when they complain about modern corn growing practices that all corn is “genetically modified”. It just happened in the fields long before we were born.

Anyway, just my story..

41 posted on 05/25/2010 7:41:13 PM PDT by conservativeharleyguy (Democrats: Over 60 million fooled daily!)
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To: GSP.FAN
I hate corn in Europe we fed it to the pigs and no self-respecting person would eat it....

Some time back, I stayed at a RV camp in Berea Kentucky. The owners had planted several acres of corn for the campers. The park was on the coast to coast bicycle trail and a lot of Europeans wheeled in exhausted every night. I would bring a pot of water to boiling at sunset. When they arrived and were pitching their tents, I'd go into the field, pick the corn, shuck it and have it in the pot in ten minutes. Amazing how much corn these Europeans ate. It was entertaining to watch. A Dutch student set the record: 18 ears.

There is bad corn. Chewy, bloated kernels are bad. Waiting too long to cook ears is another. But there is nothing sweeter than corn right off the stalk plunged into boiling water for a few minutes. Don't even need butter or salt.

42 posted on 05/25/2010 7:46:22 PM PDT by Brugmansian
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To: Brugmansian

We look down on corn in Europe and the only times i had corn in US it was either burnt or swimming in butter.
If people like corn good for them i will stick with my spuds..


43 posted on 05/25/2010 8:05:13 PM PDT by GSP.FAN (Some days, it's not even worth chewing through the restraints.)
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To: GSP.FAN

Ever had freeze-dried corn? I bought it for an elderly relative who was not eating. Needed to get some fiber and starches into her. It’s like candy. Crunchy and sweet. Has the taste of fresh corn eaten off the cob (from what you write, I think I know the corn you’ve experienced. It isn’t worth bothering with. Sits in water too long and is boiled days after picking)


44 posted on 05/25/2010 8:13:44 PM PDT by Brugmansian
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To: GSP.FAN

In Europe they get pretty full of themselves.

Grilled over a fire, slathered with butter. Simply can’t be beat.

Popped, drenched in butter. Delicious.

Made into grits, topped with butter. Or gravy. Or mixed with shrimp and cheese. Incredible.

Mixed with a little water and butter milk and maybe egg. Baked in a blazing hot frying pan. The REAL staff of life.

You got lucky pigs in Europe. Until the muzzies take over.


45 posted on 05/25/2010 8:17:24 PM PDT by chesley (Lib arguments are neither factual, logical, rational, nor reasonable. They are, however, creative.)
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To: GSP.FAN

The corn that is fed to pigs in the U.S. would not be fed to humans. There are specific varieties of corn grown for animal feed (or for converting to starch or syrup products) that are very different from the varieties grown for people to eat directly. The former are very starchy and tough and are called “feed corn”, whereas the latter are much more tender and even sweet and are called “sweet corn”. Everyone eagerly awaits the first ears of sweet corn in the early summer. It makes a big difference to get it fresh. The taste goes way down if it takes a day or more from the time it’s harvested to the time it’s either processed or you eat it. We have a local farm stand where I’ll get it a couple of hours after it’s been harvested. Take it home, shuck it, pop it in a pot of boiling water. Take it out a few minutes later, salt and butter it and that’s good eating!


46 posted on 05/25/2010 8:54:16 PM PDT by RonF
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To: yefragetuwrabrumuy; All

The “terra preta” (black earth) of the Amazon basin is a fascinating topic, but I am not sure how this relates to agriculture in southern Mexico.


47 posted on 05/25/2010 9:09:20 PM PDT by gleeaikin
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To: Sacajaweau; All

You have no monopoly on exactitude. After all, consider Bishop Usher who calculated that the earth was created at 2;30 pm on Dec. 23, 4004 BC (or some such similar exact date) based on his “careful” examination of the “begats” in the bible. Anyone who has read the bible knows that the various begats are only approximate, so how did he get so exact?


48 posted on 05/25/2010 9:13:23 PM PDT by gleeaikin
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To: GSP.FAN
I hate corn in Europe we fed it to the pigs and no self-respecting person would eat it..

I pity your ignorance.

49 posted on 05/25/2010 9:16:10 PM PDT by Vietnam Vet From New Mexico (Pray For Our Troops)
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To: SunkenCiv; All

Potatoes were taken from South America to Ireland where they became the staple food of the poor. Unfortunately, they shifted to a large, prolific potato that had very poor flavor, and of course was very sensitive to potato blight. More than a million people starved. Thus the large number of Irish now in the US.


50 posted on 05/25/2010 9:18:43 PM PDT by gleeaikin
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To: gleeaikin

It indicates that there was a widespread agricultural methodology at work in the region. Modifying soil to make it more productive is far more complicated than selective breeding of plants.


51 posted on 05/25/2010 9:24:47 PM PDT by yefragetuwrabrumuy
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To: GSP.FAN


I hate corn in Europe we fed it to the pigs and no self-respecting person
would eat it....

To each their own (taste).

But somehow corn (zea mays) sustained multiple generations of Native
Americans (despite it being deficient in some essential amino acids;
compensated by eating beans with the corn).


52 posted on 05/25/2010 10:14:26 PM PDT by VOA
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To: JoeProBono

Is post 5 Mexican or Hopi?


53 posted on 05/26/2010 4:13:04 AM PDT by bert (K.E. N.P. +12 . Ostracize Democrats. There can be no Democrat friends.)
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To: GSP.FAN

Grits man.....learn to eat grits. Grits, butter, salt, pepper, yummmm

Add cheddar yumm yumm

Add shrimp yumm yummm yumm


54 posted on 05/26/2010 4:14:52 AM PDT by bert (K.E. N.P. +12 . Ostracize Democrats. There can be no Democrat friends.)
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To: SunkenCiv

You should be ashamed of yourself for that one.

I’m stealing it...


55 posted on 05/26/2010 8:02:06 AM PDT by null and void (We are now in day 489 of our national holiday from reality. - 0bama really isn't one of US.)
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To: GSP.FAN
I hate corn in Europe we fed it to the pigs and no self-respecting person would eat it....

Yes. Europe grows field corn, pretty much only suitable for animal feed.

Americans grow sweet corn, a much tastier variety, for human consumption.

56 posted on 05/26/2010 8:05:00 AM PDT by null and void (We are now in day 489 of our national holiday from reality. - 0bama really isn't one of US.)
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To: Eric in the Ozarks
No, thank the indigenous people of Mexico. The modern Mexican is a mixture of (mostly) Spanish and Amindian ancestry, and the more “el Indio” you look the lower your place in their culture and society.
57 posted on 05/26/2010 8:05:06 AM PDT by allmendream (Income is EARNED not distributed. So how could it be re-distributed?)
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To: USFRIENDINVICTORIA

The three sisters - corn, beans and squash.


58 posted on 05/26/2010 8:07:55 AM PDT by null and void (We are now in day 489 of our national holiday from reality. - 0bama really isn't one of US.)
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To: SunkenCiv
I enjoy corn anytime, but the best way is, grow it, pick it, husk it, cook it, eat it, in order, as quickly as possible. :’)

Yeah. My mom says have the water already boiling before you pick it.

59 posted on 05/26/2010 8:09:54 AM PDT by null and void (We are now in day 489 of our national holiday from reality. - 0bama really isn't one of US.)
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To: allmendream
I know who you mean.
They're 5 feet tall and brown and populate the areas from Oaxaca south. They don't generally speak Spanish.
Been there.
60 posted on 05/26/2010 8:31:23 AM PDT by Eric in the Ozarks (Impeachment !)
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