In North America, field corn is corn (Zea mays) grown for livestock fodder, ethanol, cereal and processed food products. The principal field corn varieties are dent corn, flint corn, flour corn, including blue corn (Zea mays amylacea) and waxy corn.
Field corn primarily grown for livestock feed and ethanol production is allowed to mature fully before being shelled off the cob before being stored in silos, pits, bins or grain "flats". Field corn can also be harvested as high-moisture corn, shelled off the cob and piled and packed like sileage for fermentation; or the entire plant may be chopped while still very high in moisture with the resulting silage either loaded and packed in plastic bags, piled and packed in pits, or blown into and stored in vertical silos.
Although not grown primarily for human consumption, people do pick ears of field corn when its sugar content has peaked and cook it on the cob or eat it raw. Ears of field corn picked and consumed in this manner are commonly called "roasting ears" due to the most commonly used method of cooking them.
Large-scale applications for field corn include:
- Livestock fodder, whether as whole cobs (for hogs only), whole or ground kernels, or (after chopping and ensilage) the entire above-ground portion of the unripe plant
- Cereal products including corn flour, corn meal, hominy, grits, nixtamal, tortillas, corn bread, and cold breakfast cereals (such as corn flakes).
- Other processed human-food products including corn starch, corn oil, corn syrup, and high-fructose corn syrup.
- Alcohol and corn whiskey
Field corn is not generally regarded, in industrialized societies, as desirable for human food without commercial pre-processing, the main exception being Mexico, in which field corn consumption far exceeds that of sweet corn. Outside Mexico, an exception is "roasting ears", similar in appearance to corn on the cob, although it is necessarily roasted (rather than boiled or steamed as is usual with sweet corn), and is neither tender nor sweet even after the roasting. Field corn is also commonly eaten in third world countries, e.g. a variety of Field corn, known as Cuzco corn, is commonly eaten in the Andes region of South America.
- Jian Li, p. 3 in Total Anthocyanin Content in Blue Corn Cookies as Affected by Ingredients and Oven Types, 2009, dissertation in Department of Grain Science and Industry, College of Agriculture, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas
- "Corn" at Purdue Agriculture
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