Monday, June 21, 2004

corn

Anyone who has bought imported Italian polenta and wondered what "granturco" is would do well to read this excellent history of the gobal diffusion of corn after the conquest, written by two employees of the USDA's National Agricultural Library: "Milho, makka, and yu mai: early journeys of Zea mays to Asia":
As I ate my maize, I wondered how an American crop plant had become a staple food in a remote region of the Himalayas. My neighbors were convinced that their maize, or makai, was 'local', and only one among the many crop plants, such as rice, millet, and buckwheat, that actually are indigenous to the Himalayas. They believed that maize and other American crop plants like the chili peppers and tomatoes they used in their curries had been with them from ancestral times.

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