sweet corn with melted butter

Just in time for summer: A nice, sweet, ear of teosinte?

What?? You don’t know what teosinte is?

I’ll give you another hint….today’s distant relative of teosinte would taste great right now with some melted butter and a little salt!  Do you know now? If you guessed corn, APPLAUSE…APPLAUSE!

Teosinte, scientists believe, was the first example of genetically modified food, resulting in what we now know as corn. Over 10,000 years ago, farmers determined that, if they selected different plants, with different attributes, they could modify them to create something better.

But, let’s stop for a minute, and travel back in time, to Ancient Mexico. Let’s look at teosinte.

Teosinte is so unlike modern corn that originally botanists didn’t think the two were even related. An ear of teosinte is only about three inches long, with just five to twelve kernels. Compare that to the corn we eat today, which can have over five-hundred kernels!

And, did you know? Each of those kernels carries its own genetic make up. Each strand of corn silk is attached to a separate kernel, its own personal “umbilical cord.” Look at it this way….My sister and I share some genetic attributes, yet if you break down our DNA, we each have our own. Can you imagine? 500 brothers and sisters?

Teosinte kernels also have an “OH NO, I need a dentist”  hard shell. But through many generations, ancient Americans selectively bred plants with larger and larger ears, and softer and softer kernels. What’s left of that hard shell is the thin tissue that gets stuck between your teeth!

Are you sitting there asking yourself….SO….WHAT? If so, take a moment to realize that this was the first example of genetically engineered food, the first example of a GMO !!!!  The domestication of maize brought us to the cusp of modern day science.

I know… I know… there is more to it than that. But at its base, this is truly what it’s all about. Selective breeding, genetic altering, using science to create something better.

Read, learn, GROW. Ask questions, but listen to the answers!! And when you’re done… come on over, I’m about to grill some corn!!

Originally posted on Three Little Birds and One Messy Nest.

Katie Grossart


About Katie

I want to educate my children about the work that it takes to grow food.

Learn More