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Jan 10, 2003, 11:33 PM

Post #1 of 1 (6132 views)


**Seeds of Grass**

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Since corn plays such a vital role in the cuisine of Mexico, and is consumed
much in the same manner today as in pre-conquest Mexico, I wanted to provide a little inf. on the topic.

I have done a little research (a little knowledge can be dangerous) on one
of the very Mexican ingredients that is a gift, given to us, from thousands
of years of indigenous populations. I wanted to post a little piece on this
ingredient that has made Mexican cuisine what it is today.

Many thousands of years ago when hunter gatherers (specifically in the
Tehuacan Valley of Mexico) were making the transition to more settled
agriculturally centralized culture, a wild grass was coming in to its own as
a food source. The former hunter gatherers realized the food value in this
wild grass. Through thousands of years of domestication this wild grass was engineered into what is known today as corn (Zea mays).

This wild grass is called teosinte and is thought to be the ancestor of what
today is called Zea Mays or corn and still grows in elevations between 400 - 1700 meters in Michoacan and Jalisco, Mexico.

Through a slow process of selective breeding the little seeds rows, or cobs
were about 2 centimeters in size. A millennia and a half later, the seed
rows (through the same process of selective breeding) grew to about 4.3
centimeters. After another 2 millennia , the seeds rows developed to about
13 centimeters and have been growing ever larger since.

Corn arose totally as a product of human intervention, as corn cannot exist
for long (in its present form) in the wild.

Corn was developed as a predominant food source by indigenous populations in Tehuacan, Mexico and spread to North American Indian populations, and through trial and error adapted to various climates. Corn was rapidly accepted by European settlers in North America, and through selective breeding became one of the foremost agricultural crops in the world.

So when I smell a freshly made corn tortillas baking on a comal, or taste
the wonders of a perfectly made tamale, or the crunch of a taco filled with
carne deshebrada or carnitas, or buy a steaming "elote" covered with butter, or lime and chile, I want to thank all those ancient ones who slowly and methodically engineered the little wild grass into what it is today.

It's been a long day, think I'll get some shut eye!

Bill Gibson
Crestline, CA
"aficionado de la cocina mexicana"

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