Maize (/ˈmeɪz/), known in some English-speaking countries as corn, is a large grain plant domesticated by indigenous peoples in Mesoamerica in prehistoric times. The leafy stalk produces ears which contain the grain, which are seeds called kernels. Maize kernels are often used in cooking as a starch.
Most historians believe maize was domesticated in the Tehuacan Valley of Mexico. The Olmec and Mayans cultivated it in numerous varieties throughout Mesoamerica, cooked, ground or processed through nixtamalization. Sugar-rich varieties called sweet corn are usually grown for human consumption as kernels, while field corn varieties are used for animal feed, various corn-based human food uses (including grinding into cornmeal or masa, pressing into corn oil, and fermentation and distillation into alcoholic beverages like bourbon whiskey), and as chemical feedstocks.
Maize is the most widely grown grain crop throughout the Americas. The first corn plants only grew small, one-inch long corn cobs, and only one per plant, but artificial selection by the indigenous people of the Americas made it to grow several cobs per plant, and usually several inches long each time.
Maize is the most grown grain in the Union today. After allowing for maize's more extensive use in animal feeds, maize is third (behind wheat and rice) in terms of total production tonnages used for food.