Chic African Culture Blog

Difference between corn and maize

South African woman grinding corn into cornmeal for dinner
South African woman grinding corn into cornmeal

Explanation of the difference between corn and maize.

The United States grows over 90 million acres of corn a year, and 99 percent of it is not the kind that humans eat on the cob. That is right, corn is not just corn there are many different types and uses. 

The kind people eat on the cob is known as sweet corn, and it makes up only one percent of the corn grown in the U.S. each year. Moreover, if you are looking for popcorn, that is a completely different kind of corn, too. 

The other 99 percent of corn that dominates our American farms is known as field corn used to make food products like cornmeal, corn chips, and corn syrup, but it is primarily grown for animal feed.

The word maize derives from the Spanish form of the indigenous Taíno word for the plant, mahiz. The six major types of maize are dent corn, flint corn, pod corn, popcorn, flour corn, and sweet corn. 

High sugar varieties called sweet corn are usually grown for us humans to eat, while field corn varieties are used for animal feed, the other corn-based human food uses include cornmeal or masa, corn oil, and fermentation and distillation into alcoholic beverages like bourbon whiskey.

African grilled corn on the cob recipe

Maize is preferred in formal, scientific, and international usage because it refers specifically to this one grain, unlike corn, which refers only to the sweet corn variety with high sugar content.

Of more than 50,000 edible plant species in the world, only a few hundred contribute significantly to food supplies. Just 15 crop plants provide 90 percent of the world's food energy intake, with three rice, maize, and wheat making up two-thirds. These three are the staples of over 4000 million people.

Corn grows fast and needs lots of water to grow properly. To come to harvest quickly corn requires warm temperatures, rich soil, and even, regular watering. Agriculture has always played a fundamental role in the lives of people on the African continent. 

Whether the food is grown for household consumption or for sale women farmers contribute heavily to Africa’s agriculture. Over 70 percent of the unstable subsistence, farming population lives in the rural areas of Africa.

To many people living in Africa, foods such as wild greens, yams, corn, millet, cassava, teff, rice, sorghum, and groundnuts are indispensable in the diet. Traditional crops such as yam, sorghum, millet, and teff are grown in Africa for centuries. 

Rural African diets are influenced by mainly subsistence farming specific to the geographical region. Africa has enormous potential, not only to feed itself and eliminate hunger and food insecurity but also to be a major player in global food markets.

Did you know? Smothered Chicken or Inyama Yenkukhu is another classic South African food dish and was one of Nelson Mandela’s favorite chicken dishes.

Sweet corn is delicious on its own, but classic South African corn is also a delicious way to serve sweet corn. Corn soup is inexpensive to make but very filling, add a piece of sourdough bread or cornbread and you will have an inexpensive wonderful dinner in no time.

Corn Soup

30-minute Mealie African Corn Soup Ingredients and Directions. In this South African vegetarian corn soup recipe, sweet corn is balanced with the spicy flavor of red pepper.

 Prep time: Cook time: Total time:

One 15 ounce can whole kernel corn
One 15 ounce can cream corn
1 can evaporated milk
3 cups chicken stock
One 14 ounce can tomatoes
1 cup chopped onions 1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
1 teaspoon red pepper flake (optional)
1 teaspoon black pepper

In a large pot on medium heat, add oil then sauté onions one minute. Drain the can of whole kernel corn then add all ingredients into a large saucepan. Heat soup on medium for about 10 minutes and serve warm with the bread of your choice.

Maize is preferred in scientific and international usage because it refers to one grain, corn refers to sweet corn variety with high sugar content. Corn is not just corn there are many different types and uses.

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Being African in America I have grown up learning about different ethnic cultures. My father and mother are historians of African culture and history and their influence expanded my activities to several best-selling cookbooks, magazine columns, self-branded products, and a popular African culture and food blog.

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