Varieties of Maize

Six general varieties of maize or corn are differentiated by the characteristics of the kernel. Dent corn is the leading type of corn grown on U.S. farms. The sides of the kernel consist of hard, so-called horny starch, and the crown contains soft starch. As the grain matures, this soft starch shrinks, forming the characteristic dent. In flint corn, the horny starch extends over the top of the kernel, so there is no denting. Popcorn, a light, highly popular snack throughout the United States, is a variant of flint corn with small kernels of great hardness. When heated, the moisture in the kernels expands, causing the kernels to pop open. Flour corn contains a preponderance of soft or less densely packed starch, and it is readily ground into meal. Sweet corn is nutrient: dietary substance necessary for health protein: complex molecule composed of amino acids that performs vital functions in the cell; necessary part of the diet carbohydrate: food molecule made of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, including sugars and starches mineral: an inorganic (non-carbon-containing) element, ion or compound energy: technically, the ability to perform work; the content of a substance that allows it to be useful as a fuel tuber: swollen plant stem below the ground legumes: beans, peas, and related plants legumes: beans, peas, and related plants

Many Africans depend on some variation of this mush, which is made with water and ground maize. It can be eaten as a porridge or a dumpling, depending on the thickness of the batter and the cooking method. [AP/Wide World Photos. Reproduced by permission.]

amino acid: building block of proteins, necessary dietary nutrient vitamin: necessary complex nutrient used to aid enzymes or other metabolic processes in the cell nitrogen: essential element for plant growth metabolic: related to processing of nutrients and building of necessary molecules within the cell niacin: one of the B vitamins, required for energy production in the cell the type commonly grown in the United States for human consumption. The sugar produced by the sweet-corn plant is not converted to starch during growth, as it is in other types. Pod corn is seldom used as food but is often grown as a decorative plant—each kernel is enclosed in its own set of diminutive husks. Another decorative corn, commonly called Indian corn, consists of multicolored varieties of flour and flint types.

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