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What Is White Maize?

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  • Written By: Eugene P.
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 29 August 2016
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White maize is a type of grain that is grown throughout the world, though it is known as "white corn" in some areas. The plants that produce white maize are versatile and grow successfully in many climates. Although most of the maize that is grown is not used for human consumption, a large portion of it is. It can be ground into cornmeal and light-colored flour, and it can be soaked in lye to become hominy. The cornmeal that is produced by grinding down white maize is a staple in many dishes from a variety of countries.

There are a number of varieties of maize that have different colored kernels. In addition to white, there are red, yellow, purple even multi-colored varieties. Originally from South America, the grain quickly spread through trade when early explorers realized that it could be easily grown in different areas. Although production is still primarily in the Americas, it has reached around the world as a staple crop.

In cooking, white maize is often turned into fine flour. This corn flour is an important ingredient in traditional Latin American cuisine. It can be used to make a type of flat bread called a tortilla and can be mixed into paste and steamed for dishes such as tamales. Corn flour also is used to make corn chips.

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When white maize is ground more coarsely, it is most often turned into a thick maize porridge. The simplest recipe is just water and cornmeal that are cooked together. The porridge is enjoyed in Africa and the Americas. It can be dressed with salt and other spices or made with milk instead of water.

One treatment for white maize is to soak the dried kernels in a very light solution of water and lye. This process produces kernels known as hominy. The hominy can be cooked and eaten as is, or ground into a powder to create a type of cornmeal. The moist kernels also can be mashed into dough and mixed with lime juice to create the Latin American food known as masa.

A large amount of the white maize that is grown is not used in cooking. A significant proportion of it is used to create the biofuel ethanol. Some of it is used in the production of feed for animals, and the remaining amounts are used for various industrial purposes.

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