Wednesday, October 12, 2022

History and origin of sweet corn

The cultivation of corn can be traced back 8,000 years to Central America. Ancient farmers took the first steps in growing corn when they chose which kernels to plant. Ancient peoples in southwestern Mexico encountered a wild grass called teosinte that offered ears smaller than a pinky finger with just a handful of stony kernels. Sweet corn cobs have been discovered in Mexican caves from thousands of years ago.

Sweet corn occurs as a spontaneous mutation in field corn and was grown by several Native American tribes. Native Americans brought corn up the Mississippi River. The earliest corn plant was very small. The Iroquois gave the first recorded sweet corn (called 'Papoon') to European settlers in 1779.

The original Indian sweet corn was a striking combination of white kernels on a red cob. Through cross-breeding, settlers were able to grow white sweet corn on a light-colored cob.

The first commercial variety of sweet corn was reportedly introduced in 1779. To capture maximum sweetness, sweet corn is harvested before it fully matures while sugar content is still high. Not until the late 19th century was a yellow strain developed by William Chambers of Massachusetts. Called Golden Bantam, it was marketed earlier in this century by W. Atlee Burpee.

Super sweet corn was developed in the early 1950s by a University of Illinois botany professor named John Laughnan. Laughnan discovered that a certain gene in corn stored less starch but held four to 10 times more sugar.
History and origin of sweet corn