Recent scientific reports have pointed out that corns are not healthy for humans. Dr. Uma Naidoo, a nutritional psychiatrist, brain expert, and faculty member at Harvard Medical School listed various corn types to avoid.
But what are the different types of corn? In this article, we will explore the different types of corn, their benefits, and what makes them unique.
Table of Contents
What is corn?
Corn is a cereal grain that was first domesticated by indigenous peoples in Mexico about 10,000 years ago. The word “corn” actually refers to any small, hard kernel used for food. In the United States, “corn” typically means the yellow or white kernels of Zea mays, also known as field corn.
Corn is also referred to as maize, from the Spanish word ‘mays’ or ‘maiz’ from Taino, a Caribbean Language. for the plant, maíz.
In North America and here in the US, maize varieties or any maize variety is referred to as corn.
Corn has surpassed the production of wheat and rice and is now the world’s most widely grown grain.
GMO vs non-GMO Corn:
There is a big debate on whether GMO corn is safe or not. GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism and 85% of the US corn has been genetically modified to ‘express agriculturally-desirable traits, including resistance to pests and to herbicides.’
Sweet corn is the most modified variety as its DNA has been modified to make insect-resistant sweet corn. Syngenta and Monsanto have led the way in GMO sweet corn.
Pros of GMO Corn:
- 1. Helps farmers as it is insect resistant and thus, there is no need for spraying pesticides.
- 2. Tolerant to herbicides- helps in easy weed control.
- 3. Increased yields.
- 4. Drought tolerance- due to the introduction of genes from bacteria known as Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), crops can now withstand periods of drought.
- 5. Improved nutrition- with the help of biotechnology, scientists are now able to increase the level of vitamins and minerals in corn.
Cons of GMO Corn:
- 1. May lead to the development of herbicide-resistant weeds.
- 2. There is a possibility of the GMO corn cross-pollinating with non-GMO crops, which can lead to contamination.
- 3. May be harmful to human health as it has been linked to various allergies, toxicity, and organ damage.
- 4. Harmful to the environment as it kills Monarch butterflies.
Different types of corn:
The varieties above vary with the amount of sugar they have with sweet corn having the highest concentration of sugar.
The varieties also vary in hardness, with dent corn being the hardest. Below is a detailed explanation of each type;
Flint corn, also called Indian corn or sometimes calico corn is hard, dry corn. The kernels are hard and flinty (hence the name). Flint corn is used primarily for animal feed and as masa flour.
Masa flour is used to make tortillas, tamales, chips, and other cornmeal products.
Features: Flint corn has low water content and is more resistant to freezing common with vegetables. Because of this, flint corn survived the “Year Without a Summer” of 1816, the coldest recorded period from 1766 to 2022.
They have been in cultivation in the US for a very long time. Native Americans were the first to cultivate them, and they were an important part of the diets of many tribes.
Below is an image of blue flint corn;
Below is an image of purple flint corn
Scientific name: Zea mays
Dent corn is another corn variety known to have “dents” or small indentations on the top of each kernel. It is also called field corn, and it’s the most common type of corn grown in the United States.
About 40 percent of the corn grown in the U.S. is dent corn. Most of this dent corn is used for animal feeds and approximately 60 percent of the dent corn grown in the United States is used to produce ethanol, a renewable fuel made from plants.
Dent corn is also used to make high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), a type of sugar used in many processed foods and beverages.
- Thicker and tougher husks
- Shorter stalks
- Larger ears
- Kernels have a “dent” or small indentation on the top of each kernel
- Dent corn is used primarily for animal feed, biofuels, and food processing.
Below is an image of dent corn;
Popcorn also called popped corn, popcorns or pop-corn is a Zea mays corn kernel variety. It has a thin hull and small, tender kernels that “explode” when heated. The explosion pops the hull open and turns the kernel inside out, resulting in a fluffy, white popcorn.
Popcorn is made up of an endosperm that is surrounded by a starchy hull (also called the pericarp or testa). 14–20% of popcorn is moisture and when heated, the water vaporizes and expands inside the kernel, causing it to burst out of the hull.
- The popped kernels are about 40 times their original size
- Hollow inside
- Light and puffy
Below is an image of unpopped popcorn;
Below is an image of popped popcorn;
Flour corn, also called masa,al, or cornmeal, is a yellow or white corn variety that is ground into a powder. It is used to make tortillas, tamales, chips, and other cornmeal products.
Masa flour is made from dried and degermed dent corn kernels that have been soaked in an alkalization process, which makes the corn easier to grind through a process called nixtamalization. Nixtamalization is a process where field corn is cooked and soaked in an alkaline solution. This process makes the corn easier to grind into fine flour.
Flour corn is also used to make hominy, grits, and cornmeal.
- Fine texture
- Mild flavor
- Yellow or white color
Sweet corn is a Zea mays subspecies that has been bred for its sweetness. Sweet corn are in rows called “ears” that are wrapped in leaves called “husks.” The ears of sweet corn are picked while they are still young and the kernels are soft. If the ears are allowed to mature, the kernels will become hard and dry.
Sweet corn is the most popular type of corn grown in the United
The kernels of sweet corn are much larger than those of dent corn and have a softer endosperm. The husks are also thinner and more delicate. Sweet corn is usually eaten as a vegetable, either cooked or raw. It can also be used to make corn syrup and cornstarch.
It is also called sugar corn or pole corn.
Sweet corn is harvested before maturity unlike other corn varieties in this list. They are harvested days to two weeks after silking.
The tassels of sweet corn will be brown and the kernels should be full and plump. To test if they are ready, gently press on a kernel with your thumbnail, it should exude a milky liquid.
- Larger kernels
- Softer endos
- Tender kernels
- Mild flavor
- Sweet taste
Below is an image of sweet corn;