All the Information that Existent about Corn

In this blog we’ll show you the characteristics of corn (both the fruit and the plant), the main types of corn, its properties, history, main exporters and importers, how it is grown and some products made from this cereal. Don’t miss it!  

What is corn and what are its characteristics?     

Scientific name Zea mays
Common nameCorn, maíz, elote o choclo.
Place of originMesoamérica
HabitatWide range of temperatures and compact soils.
DistributionNorth and South America (see section on top ginger exporters in the world for more information).

Characteristics of the corn plant 

Its common name and scientific name are the same as the fruit (corn). It belongs to the genus of grasses.

Its plant has a wide stalk with many knots that grow vertically bearing the fruit at its tip. It can reach a height of 2 to 5 meters. This stem can have from 15 to 30 elongated and green leaves that measure from 4 to 10 cm wide and 35 to 50 cm long. These leaves are used as a wrapper for humitas or wraps.

Corn flowers can be male or female. The way to differentiate them is observing if the plant has spikes or hairs like those of the cob. If it has spikes, we are talking about a male plant, but if it has hairs, it is a female.

Description of the corn fruit 

Its fruit are the corn kernels or the cob, covered by the leaves of the plant and measuring 4 to 6 cm wide and 15 to 30 cm long, it can weigh up to 500g.

The corn grains are inserted in the rachis of the cob; they are yellowish, just like the cob where they grow in rows. These grains are very small, measuring a maximum of 10.09 mm long and 4.31 mm wide.

They have a mild flavor that becomes slightly sweet. Its grains play the role of seed at the time of planting.

Types of corn 

In general there are 7 types or varieties of corn:

  1. Hard corn
  2. Popped corn
  3. Toothed corn
  4. Floury corn
  5. Waxy corn
  6. Sweet corn
  7. Pisingallo corn

Today we’ll focus on the first five types mentioned since they are the main ones.

Hard corn 

This type of corn has been the most widely cultivated since its beginnings. Its kernels are round, hard and have a smooth texture. Its interior contains mostly hard starch and a small fraction of soft starch at the bottom.

This corn germinates better than the other varieties, especially in cold and humid soils. It matures and dries quickly. It is less likely to be damaged by insects, mold or during storage, but hard corn yields less than dent corn.

People prefer to incorporate hard corn into their meals, for example, when making corn starch, better known as cornstarch. In addition, much of the crop is consumed as green corncobs or as animal feed.

Most of the hard corn that is launched to the market is yellow-orange or white, however, it can be found in other shades such as beige, green, purple, black, blue and red.

Pop corn 

It receives its name because when the kernels are heated with oil in a frying pan, they burst and the inner part of the seed comes out. It is mainly used in the preparation of some snacks such as popcorn or rositas, which we’ll talk about in the section on corn-based products.

It is an extreme form of hard corn since its inner part is hard and extends over almost the entire kernel, it only has a small part with soft starch that is located at its base. Its kernels are small, with thick husk and its shape can be rounded or oval.  Many primitive forms of corn are of the popping type, some of them are the Sikkim corn found in the Himalayas in Sikkim and Bhutan; its kernels are popped, but in shape they resemble rice.

Toothed corn 

It is the most widely cultivated variety of corn for grain. This corn has more soft starch than hard corn and, in this case, the hard starch is only present in the corners of the kernel. As the kernel begins to dry, the soft starch in the upper part of the kernel contracts and creates a sink, and thanks to this it takes the shape of a tooth, which is why it is called dentate.

In general, this type of corn has a higher yield than other types of corn, but it is more prone to damage from insects, fungi or during storage and takes longer to dry.

Much of this corn has white kernels that are mostly intended for human consumption, while the yellow kernels are mostly consumed by animals, however, both can be consumed by both humans and animals.

Floury corn 

The inner part of this corn is composed almost entirely of soft starch that can be easily pierced with the fingernails if the kernel has not yet matured. Much of this corn is found in Mexico and is used mostly for human consumption.

This variety has a sub-variety called Cuzco Gigante which is found in Peru and has quite large kernels, so large that the cob from which they come has only 8 rows. The consumption of floury corn has recently expanded, but only toasted. The grains of this corn have a great variety of colors, that is why they are used for the creation of some dyes.

Because of its high amount of soft starch, it is very prone to rot quickly and, for the same reason, it is very likely to find worms and insects in its cobs either when it is growing or in its post-harvest. Likewise, it is difficult for its seeds to germinate properly and its yield is lower compared to dent and durum corn.

Morocho corn 

The floury corn has also been mixed with other varieties such as hard corn to create hybrids, one of them is the Morocho. This corn has soft starch at the bottom and its surface is covered by a layer of hard starch.

Morocho is less prone to suffer diseases or to be attacked by pests and is manufactured to be used by both humans and animals in the poultry region, however, there are some problems for the industry to accept this product and it is that, in general, there are some difficulties in its milling process.

Waxy corn 

It is so called because its appearance and texture is dark and waxy. This corn is made up exclusively of amylopectin, while other varieties such as hard corn and dent corn are made up of approximately 30% amylose and 70% amylopectin, compounds responsible for providing energy to the body. Thanks to amylopectin, waxy corn is particularly sticky when cooked.

Waxy corn was discovered in China in 1909, at that time it was used in some regions of Central Asia for the creation of typical dishes. This corn is sold at a good price in some markets, especially for the manufacture of a starch very similar to tapioca, which is obtained from the stored roots of cassava.

Sticky corn
By National Institute of Korean Language –, CC BY-SA 2.0 kr,

Properties and benefits of corn 

Nutritional profile of corn 

We invite you to see the nutritional table of corn per 100g, taken from Vegaffinity.

CompositionQuantity (gr)CDR (%)
MineralsQuantity (mg)CDR (%)
VitaminsQuantity (mg)CDR (%)
Vitamin A0.022%
Vitamin B10.043.3%
Vitamin B20.086.2%
Vitamin B31.770%
Vitamin B1200%
Vitamin C11.1%

5 properties of corn that you need to take advantage of 

Ideal for gluten-free diets 

If you are celiac or allergic to gluten, you can consume corn or corn-based products, such as corn bread to replace the traditional bread made with wheat flour, which is harmful for people allergic to gluten because wheat has this element.

It reduces the risk of hemorrhoids 

Corn has 18% of the recommended daily dose of fiber, therefore, by consuming it, certain ailments of the digestive system such as constipation and hemorrhoids that can occur when you have a significant time with a hard stomach are relieved.

It promotes the health of the nervous system 

This cereal is high in vitamin B components such as thiamine and niacin which are also known as vitamin B1 and B3 respectively.

Thiamine is important for nerve health and for easy remembering and learning. On the other hand, the lack or absence of niacin can cause diseases such as pellagra that can occur in people with malnutrition and one of its symptoms is dementia.

It has several essential minerals 

Corn has a large amount of minerals that are essential for the body such as phosphorus which is involved in bone health, healthy growth of the body and the well-being of the kidneys.

Another component present in corn is magnesium, which ensures that our heartbeat maintains a proper rhythm and that our bones have sufficient minerals.

It protects your heart 

Not only does it regulate the heart rate as we mentioned before, but it also removes excess cholesterol in the body and this prevents your heart from getting sick in the future. This benefit is particularly true for corn oil rather than pure corn as it contains healthy fatty acids and phytosterols.

History and origin of corn 

This food is said to have been cultivated between 7,000 and 10,000 years ago and there are several theories as to the place of its origin:

Asian origin 

The origin of this food would be in the Himalayan region, as a result of a mixture between the species Coix spp. and some species called Andropogoneas, from which sorghum comes from. Although many people do not believe in this fact, the theory that corn is a hybrid has been growing thanks to some studies with molecular markers.

Andean origin 

According to this theory, corn comes from the high Andes of Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador. This theory is promoted thanks to the discovery of some popping maize in South America and the great variety of genetics found in Andean maize, particularly in the highlands of the Peruvian country.

Mexican origin 

Several researchers consider that corn may have originated in Mexico, since this food has inhabited this country since ancient times and many of its specimens are found in this territory. The fact that some corn cobs have been found in Mexican caves in archeological zones reinforces this theory that corn comes from the area of what is now Mexico.

Global corn industry 

Know the main exporters and importers of corn in the world.

Top corn exporters in the world  

In the following chart you can see the 11 countries that exported the most corn by 2020 according to Statista.

Top corn importers in the world 

In 2020, $41,003,563 of corn was imported around the world. The top corn importers for this year were the ones you’ll see in the chart below.

How is corn cultivated?   

To grow this cereal there are a series of requirements that must be taken into account. Below we show you what they are:   


There must be a balance when choosing the soil; it must have proper drainage, be aerated, loose, flat and somewhat cracked. It is not recommended to grow corn in clay soils because these soils have a high moisture retention and this decreases the amount of air that must be received for the plant to grow.


Although some types of corn, such as durum, grow much better in cold climates, most corn grows in temperate or warm temperatures that can range from 21°C to 27°C (70°F to 77°F).

Corn planting method 

Choosing the type of corn 

The first thing to do is to make sure that you are planting the right corn according to the purpose you have, for example, if you want corn to be eaten as soon as possible and to be more suitable for accompanying meals, it is advisable to choose sweet corn seeds.

Planting seasons 

Corn, as a crop that needs a lot of daily sun, has to be planted between the months of May and June. When the plant is under heat, it will not be necessary to cover it for shade because, if the soil cools, it will cause the crop to rot.

Soil care 

The soil of the corn should always be well fertilized, for this it is necessary to start fertilizing the soil for a month before cultivation. Another measure to take into account for the soil is that it must always be dry.


The corn crop is pollinated by the wind that carries the pollen of other plants, therefore it is better to plant it in groups rather than in separate rows. For this it is good to sow the seeds with a space of 1 to 2 inches per crop. Additionally, it is advisable to plant 2 or 3 seeds per hole.


Although the soil should be kept as dry as possible, the plant must be watered at least once a week. It is recommended to use some type of specialized irrigation system that is in the ground because, if watered from above, there is a risk of pollen falling off the plant.


After about 2 to 3 months have passed since planting, it is normal for the corn to be 30 to 45 centimeters tall. The corn will stop growing when its tassel is dry.

Corn harvesting 

If you notice a milky substance coming out of the corn kernels when you prick them and they are very tight, it means that the corn is ready for harvesting.

Corn postharvest 

Storage of corn 

It is advisable to eat the corn as soon as it is picked but if this is not possible, it can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

One way to extend its shelf life is to put it in vinegar in glass containers; it can last from 3 to 9 months. Another way to extend the shelf life of corn is by canning it; in this form it can be preserved for 3 to 5 years.

Uses and products made from corn 

Corn is usually eaten as an accompaniment to many savory foods or just as popcorn, which we will describe in this section.  It is eaten fresh or processed. Certain corn-based products have also been launched on the market, such as the ones we will show you below.

Food products made from corn 


This snack can be salty or sweet when caramelized. For the manufacture of this food, some varieties such as pisingallo corn or popcorn are used. The procedure to obtain the popcorn is to put the corn in a pot with oil and heat it until the kernel explodes due to the expansion of its core. When this happens, its husk breaks and it becomes a white and spongy mass.

Popcorn can also be made in machines called popcorn poppers or crispeteras in which it is not always necessary to use oil, they use hot air to cook the corn kernels that are put inside the machine.

Pirate corn
From Deavmi – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Corn oil 

This product is usually used to cook meals at home or in hotels. It is also used to make margarine, mayonnaise, consommés or to replace animal fat in any food. As mentioned in the properties of corn, this oil is particularly beneficial for the heart when compared to other oils.

Corn flour 

This is a fine powder obtained by grinding the ripe, dry and hard corn kernels. It is said that this product originates in the American continent, more specifically in Mexico. There is evidence that points to the fact that the process by which this flour is obtained began there.

Some foods are made from corn flour, such as corn bread or corn wrap, which we will talk about next. Corn flour is mainly consumed in some countries such as:

  • Colombia
  • Mexico
  • Ecuador
  • Panama
  • Venezuela
  • Peru
  • Paraguay


Also known as cornbread or Johny cake. This bread is made with corn flour and is easy to prepare since it doesn’t need to go through a fermentation process like other breads. This bread also has another advantage since it is healthier than traditional bread because it does not contain gluten.

It is essentially made by making a corn flour dough with other ingredients and heating it in a frying pan until it is well cooked.

Corn wrap 

Also known as bollo, chupado, chuspado or hallaquita in Venezuela, this is a sort of dough-like food made from corn flour or in other cases from plantain, yucca or sweet potato dough. This dough is wrapped in leaves of cane, faldo or the same corn and cooked in boiling water. In addition to flour, you can add white cheese to this appetizer to give it more flavor.

By Jdvillalobos – Own work, CC BY 3.0,


This is the name given to a number of beverages that are obtained mostly from fermented corn without distillation and a series of cereals from America, however, these products can also be obtained from various fruits and fermented cereals.

This drink is frequently consumed in South and Central America and is expanding worldwide. Chicha is usually prepared in an artisanal way and can be made without alcohol or with it in small or medium quantities.

Below is a list of other products that are also made from corn:

  • Nachos
  • Cereals
  • Syrups
  • Sorbitol (sweetener for chewing gum)
  • Cornstarch
  • Tortillas
  • Soups
  • Sopes (appetizers)
  • Flan
  • Tamales
  • Quesadillas
  • Tlaxcales
  • Esquites
  • Pozole
  • Atole
  • Corn dough
  • Dextrose or corn sugar


Corn can be used to make delicious preparations that at the same time are healthy and can replace some products that are widely consumed but do not contribute much to our body, such as bread. For this reason, it is one of the most important cereals in the world. Being so, you should feel grateful if you have any corn product at home, and if it is not the case, we invite you to consume it daily so you can enjoy all its benefits.