Maize is one of the most important and traditional crops in Mexico. It has a long history in the region, as it is believed that maize was first domesticated in what is now Mexico thousands of years ago.
Mexico is known for its diversity of maize types, as numerous varieties are cultivated throughout the country. Each of these varieties has unique characteristics and is used for different culinary purposes.
Origin of Corn in Mexico
Maize has a very ancient origin in what is now Mexico. It is believed that maize (also known scientifically as Zea mays) was first domesticated in the Mesoamerican region, which encompasses parts of what is now Mexico and Central America, thousands of years ago.
Maize is considered one of the most important and ancient crops in the Americas.
Archaeological and genetic studies have shown that the ancient inhabitants of this region domesticated maize from a wild plant called teosinte. Through a process of selection and selective breeding over many generations, Mesoamerican farmers succeeded in transforming teosinte into the maize plant we know today.
This process of domestication of maize is estimated to have begun approximately 9,000 years ago, making it one of the oldest crops in the world.
Maize became a mainstay of the diet and culture of pre-Columbian civilisations in the region, such as the Aztecs, Mayans and Olmecs. It was a staple in their diet and played a central role in their myths and rituals.
Maize also became a crop of great economic and social importance in these civilisations, and its production and distribution were organised in complex agricultural systems.
The genetic diversity of maize, which includes coloured varieties such as white, yellow and blue, developed over the centuries in this region, and many of these landraces are still cultivated in Mexico.
The 7 most popular types of maize in Mexico
There are currently 64 criollo (native) varieties of maize in Mexico, although the most common species are:
Cacahuazintle is a variety of maize (Zea mays) that is cultivated and consumed in Mexico, especially in some regions of the country such as the Serdán plain, Puebla, in Tlaxcala, in Hidalgo and in Mexico City.
It is known for having larger and harder kernels compared to the maize used to make tortillas and other food products.
Cacahuazintle is appreciated for its role in Mexican gastronomy, particularly in the preparation of pozole, where its texture and flavour contribute to the distinctive character of this dish.
In addition to its culinary use, cacahuazintle also has cultural significance and represents a part of Mexico’s rich gastronomic heritage.
The term ‘chapalote’ is used in Mexico to refer to a variety of maize that is also known as ‘maize chapalote’ or ‘conical maize’. This type of maize is characteristic for its elongated, conical shape, which resembles a spinning top or spinning top.
It is important to note that chapalote is just one of many varieties of maize grown in Mexico, and each has its own specific culinary characteristics and uses. Maize is an essential crop in the Mexican diet and plays a central role in the country’s cuisine and culture.
Teocintle is a wild plant that is considered the ancestor of maize (Zea mays), especially domesticated maize. Teocintle is believed to be the parent species that was domesticated by ancient Mesoamerican civilisations to give rise to the maize we know today.
Its domestication thousands of years ago by ancient Mesoamerican civilisations was a crucial step in the history of agriculture and food in the region. Teocintle is also important in the conservation of maize genetic diversity.
Blue maize (Zea mays azul)
Blue maize (Zea mays azul) is a maize variety characterised by dark blue or purple kernels. This maize variety is native to Mexico and has been cultivated and used for centuries in traditional Mexican cuisine.
Blue corn is just one of the many varieties of corn grown in Mexico, and its distinctive colour and flavour make it unique in Mexican cuisine. Its history and its importance in Mexico’s food culture make it a special element in the country’s gastronomy.
Popote corn (Zea mays with popcorn)
Popcorn’ refers to a specific variety of corn that is grown primarily for the production of popcorn, a popular and tasty snack. Popcorn is obtained when popcorn kernels of this variety pop due to the pressure of the water vapour inside them when they are heated.
Popcorn is a specific variety of corn grown to produce popcorn, a popular snack that is enjoyed all over the world. Its main characteristic is the ability of its kernels to pop and expand when heated, creating the puffy popcorn we know and love.
Elote corn (Zea mays dulce)
Elote corn” refers to sweet corn (Zea mays dulce), a specific variety of corn that is grown for its tender, sweet kernels rather than harvested for use as a dry grain. Sweet corn is a specialised variety characterised by kernels that are softer and sweeter than those of dry grain corn.
Sweet corn is prized for its sweet taste and versatility in cooking. It is enjoyed in a variety of culinary preparations and is a popular ingredient in many cuisines around the world. In addition to its use in human food, sweet corn is also used in animal feed production and in the food industry for the production of products such as breakfast cereals and preserves.
Criollo maize (landraces)
Criollo maize” refers to a diverse collection of indigenous or native maize varieties that have been cultivated by indigenous and local populations in the Americas for centuries.
These corn varieties have been adapted to local conditions and represent an important part of the genetic diversity of maize in the region.
Some of the varieties are:
- Purple corn
- Red maize
- White maize
- Pinto tall
- Pinto white
- Pinto mosca
- Pinto yellow
These varieties are valuable from both a genetic and cultural perspective and play a crucial role in the diets and identity of many communities in the region.
Did you know about the most important maize varieties in Mexico?
At Birra’s Taqueria we are experts in tacos and Mexican food since 1989, so if you want to taste some quality traditional tacos or other typical recipes, we invite you to order to take away or come and try them at C/ Don Pedro, 11 or at Plaza de las Comendadoras, 2.