Let’s Talk About Maize!

22

By Ifechukwu Nwobodo-Anyanwu Yes! It’s maize season and as the experts always advise- take advantage of the availability of every plant in bloom and enjoy their abundance to the fullest. It will interest you to know that this plant has its origin more than 10,000 years ago when it was first planted by indigenous Mexicans. It is the highest grains produced worldwide. You can call it Zea Mays, corn, or maize and you will still be correct. Every good biology student remembers that Zea Mays is the botanical name. North Americans and Australian English speakers called it corn while the name maize was derived from the Spanish form of the indigenous Taíno word for the plant, mahiz. The word “corn” outside the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand refers to any cereal crop, its meaning understood to vary geographically to refer to the local staple. So for the purpose of this report, we will be referring to this plant as maize. The six major types of maize are dent corn, flint corn, pod corn, popcorn, flour corn, and sweet corn. These types/classifications are based on the kernel structure. We use most of these types regularly for a variety of purposes in our kitchens. Apart from eating it by either roasting or boiling, there are many other purposes to which maize is put. It is used for popcorn, corn pudding, cornmeal, cornbread and can be used industrially to produce ethanol. Products of the corn plants are also used to produce corn syrup, industrial starch, and refined corn oil. Livestock is fed using maize as silage, grains, and foliage. The nutritional value of maize is inferior to other cereals. Its protein is of poor quality, it only supplies dietary fiber and the essential minerals, magnesium, and phosphorus in moderate quantities and it is deficient in niacin. However, maize contains 76% water, 19% carbohydrates, 3% protein, and 1% fat. In a 100-gram serving, maize kernels provide 86 calories and are a good source of B vitamins, thiamin, pantothenic acid (B5), and folate. Planting maize is relatively easy. You do not have to be a mechanized farmer or have a lot of land for the cultivation of maize. They can be grown even in a residential garden with a simple hoe as the tool for planting. They thrive best in a fertile, well-irrigated, medium, heavy loamy soil. Harrow the land at the onset of rain and plant the seeds after a few days when the soil is moist. The recommended spacing is 75cm between rows and 25cm for plants. The planting holes should be about 5cm deep. The right spacing ensures good crop growth, makes it easier to weed, and reduces the spread of pests and diseases. Within three to four months of planting, maize is ready to be harvested and enjoyed. It is a good thing that the abundance of maize in this season is matched simultaneously with that of pear. The combination is a delight to enjoy any day. So why don’t you go out today and buy some? Better still, let’s plan on planting maize next season!

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