Selected Quotes on the
Uses of Maize in North America

Description of maize, how it is planted and cultivated in North America, together with the many uses of this crop plant

Pehr Kalm, Kongl. Svenska Vetaskaps Academiens Handlingar (Swedish Royal Academy),  in two parts, 12: 305-308 (1751) ; 13: 24-43 (1752).  Agricultural history: Volume 9, Number 2, 1935, translated by Esther Louise Larsen.    

General Observations on Maize
in the Eighteenth Century

“most ears are usually provided with yellow kernels;  others are of white, transparent, blue, brown, red, mottled, or red and white striped kernels.   The farther south one goes the more kinds of maize one finds.  The colors are more numerous, beautiful, and showy.  The condition is quite reverse in the north in Canada, where one hardly sees any maize other than white, light, or occasionally blue.   The small variety does not produce so many colors as the large.  At times some of the kernels on one ear are yellow, while others on the same ear are red.  This is brought about by planting.  It is to be noted that if yellow and red maize are planted close besides each other the ears which grow on them have a mixture of red and yellow kernels.”    (103)

“When traveling in America one sees miles of nothing but maize fields.  The inhabitants have developed a large trade in this grain.” (104)

“In Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and in the greater part of New York, the inhabitants use the large maize.  The smaller, or three-month maize, is planted in New England and Canada, although some large maize is grown.   Most of the wealthy colonists, as well as the farmers, plant a small amount of the three-month maize, as it ripens long before the other.   It is used in part for roasting and in part for cooking, while the kernels are still soft and not entirely rip, and is considered a delicacy.”  (104)

“The three-month maize is used by some people because it produces flour of a finer, whiter grade then the large”  (104)

“The savages allow their maize ears to dry in a moderate smoke, and afterward hang them up under the ceiling in their huts.  The ears remain good for many years, both for food and planting.”  (109) 

Roasted Maize
“When the maize ears are large, but the kernels on them still soft, it is customary to remove the ears from the stalk on which they are growing in the field.   The husks covering the kernel are torn off.  The ears  are then placed in front of a fire to roast until they become light brown.  These ears are considered a delicacy by both Europeans and savages.”  (110)

Sweet Maize
“Later in the season the savages do not roast the green ears, but cook and eat them, and they actually taste quite good.  It is even customary with many to take these green ears where they stand  in the field and eat them immediately, raw as they are.  I have often done so myself, and to my taste, the kernels are as good as sweet-sugared milk.”  (110)

Maize Syrup (see corn beer)
"While the maize stalks are green, and before the ears are ripe, there is a clear water between the nodes of the stalk, which is as sweet as sugar.   Various people have made both syrups and sugar from maize, but this conversion has not been considered profitable.   I have seen  Europeans, as well as the American savages, cut off the maize stalk in the fields, chew them to pieces between their teeth, and suck out the sweet juice.  [John] Lawson, in his Description of Carolina, p. 75 [(London, 1714)], says that some people crush the stalks and make from them a very palatable drink.  “  (110)

Maize Beer (see blue corn beer)
"Some people in America make near beer from maize.  They commonly consider blue maize to be better and more productive for this purpose than any other kind of maize.  Maize malt is prepared in the same manner as any other malt, but malting takes longer.  If much near beer is to be produced the maize should be allowed to sprout until the shoots are quite green.  Malting maize should be washed thoroughly once a day in order to prevent molding.  The malt of maize tastes exactly like that of barley.  A quantity of blue maize is planted by some people solely for the purpose of making this drink.  The ale brewed from maize is not inferior in strength and flavor to that which is brewed from barley.  This near beer has a quality which vies with other near beer.  A  blue maize is considered to be more suitable for making near beer, it has the advantage of ripening in a week or fourteen days.   Fine spirits are distilled from maize, although this is a property of less importance.”  (113)

Maize and Wheat Bread  (recipes)
“In most of the English colonies the farmers make their bread from maize.  In Maryland event the aristocracy and the wealthy eat hardly any other bread.  If a stranger comes to them, they place before him both wheat and maize bread, allowing him the freedom to choose whichever he prefers;  they themselves prefer the maize bread.  But if bread is made entirely of maize, one does not find it so good.”  (111)
“From wheat and maize flour one also gets a fine bread.  In America this bread is commonly baked in the form of large loaves.”  (111)

Maize and Pumpkin Bread    (recipes)
“Occasionally people make bread of different kinds of pumpkins and maize mixed.  This bread is very fine and sweet.  Usually the maize flour is scalded first and the pumpkins cooked, and then both are kneaded together.”  (111)

Maize and Rye Bread  (recipes)
“The best is made of rye and maize flour mixed….  When bread is made of rye flour, a mush is first cooked of the maize flour, which must stand until cool, then the rye is kneaded in.  ”  (111)

Maize Bread of the Savages
"The savages make their maize bread in a different manner.  They grind the maize in a large wooden mortar to grits or coarse flour…  Then they make a dough which they fill with either American blueberries, blackberries or wild grapes, which they collect and dry in great quantities during the summer for this purpose.  From this dough small cakes are baked the size and shape of our blood cakes.   These are first cooked in water like dumplings and then roasted and baked on a hot stone, or only cooked in water with later baking and roasting.  They are sometimes wrapped in leaves and blades of herbs and buried in ashes.  A fire is built over them and in this manner they are baked.    This dish especially used for important celebrations and big feasts, when they have some stranger for whom they wish to show their highest respect.  Such bread tastes good and is usually eaten while it is warm.  When strawberries are ripe, they make bread in the same way from maize and strawberries." (111-112)

Maize Soup
“From the American savage the Europeans have learned to make a grit soup of maize, which is generally esteemed as a delicacy.  The French call it Sagamite’; the English and several savage tribes Hommony; the Swedes and some wild tribes; Sapaan.  It is made in the following manner:  As many of the maize kernels are taken out as needed and placed in a vessel.  A little water is poured over them, enough to cover the maize.  It is allowed to stand for a time, after which the maize swells somewhat.  Then this maize is put in a large wooden stump, standing perpendicular and hollowed at the top.  In this wooden mortar the maize is pounded slowly with a wooden pestle, until the hulls loosen and separate from it.  After that the hulls are washed away.   Only the heart remains, which has been well broken up by the slow crushing, not into flour, but into coarse pieces like coarse grits.  These maize grits are placed in a kettle and cooked for a time.  Later meat is added (for maize grains require longer cooking then the meat);  and when it is thoroughly cooked the kettle is lifted from the fire.  Maize thus prepared is good food and, according to my taste, has a flavor resembling a soup of grits or peas.  When this soup cools, it can be warmed again if desired.  If it becomes too thick, sweet milk may be added, which I believe improves the flavor.”  (112)

Maize Mush
“Most mush which is used in America is cooked from maize flour, and although nothing is added except water, it is very white and similar to our mush cooked with milk.   To my taste it’s flavor is more delicious than the mush cooked from any other flour.  During the time I spent with the Dutch who live north of Albany, I never had any other food in the evening but maize mush and milk, and scarcely any other breakfast but the same maize mush, either browned in butter or warmed in sweet milk.  The Dutch  ate nothing else for long periods.  During the previous summer, when I was with them, they cooked part mush, part gruel, from maize flour and buttermilk mixed together, which tasted well enough to the hungry stomach.  From grits of maize a mush or gruel is made which is cooked with water, buttermilk or sweetmilk, and all these types of gruels or mush almost vie with that cooked of rice.  Occasionally syrup or sugar is mixed with the buttermilk to make it more tasty.   Maize mush is quite nourishing.” (112)

Lyed Maize (see hulled corn)
“Some people remove the hulls in the following manner:  They make a lye solution from ashes and soak the maize kernels in it for a short time.  The hulls disintegrate and fall off.  The maize is then washed several times in clean water in order to remove the taste of the lye.  The maize kernels thus obtained are entirely whole and not crushed into pieces.  They are used in the same manner as the Sagamite’.”  (113)

“The outer hulls are removed with lye and the grains are dried.  These grains are taken on journeys.  They are cooked in a pail or kettle;  a little fat, such as one can obtain on a journey, is added, either of bear, deer, or something else.  Then it becomes a very good food.” (114)

Parched Maize (see parched corn)
“In Canada most of the inhabitants travel widely in an attempt to buy fur articles for trade.   They must seek the distant savage nations.  It would be impossible to carry the food necessary for such a long journey, because there long stretches over land where it is necessary not only to carry boats, but also the articles they are going to sell.  They journey two or three years, and are often in places where they would not have access to food.  They have therefore discovered a different type of food, which in small quantities can still give a great deal of nourishment. “  (113)

“This concentrated food, which the savages first invented, is called Quitzera, by the Iroquois.” (114

“For concentrated food, maize is used.    It is either baked in hot sand or ashes or in an oven after bread is removed.  When the maize is baked it is put in a wooden mortar… pounded to pieces with a wooden pestle until it is like coarse grits.  Later it is taken out and the hulls are washed away.  After that the finer maize grits are mixed with other materials, either sugar from the sugar maple or something else, according to how sweet one prefers it.   The sugar and parched  corn are well mixed and kept either in a sack or some other  kind of container.  If a traveler is on a journey and gets hungry, he takes a half or whole handful of this flour mixture, puts it in a shell or another vessel with water, stirs it and thus it is eaten.  (113)

“The maize which is put in ashes to bake is not on the ear, but in loose kernels.   The traveler makes a pit in the sand or ashes, covers the kernels with sand or ashes, builds a fire over them, and there they are baked.  The American savages, who do not have ovens, take advantage of this method in preparing this concentrated food.”  (113-114) 

“If fat is added, it becomes even more nourishing.  Some people take the coarsest part of the ground maize and put it in a sack for themselves and eat it mixed with fat.  People of quality mix maize flour or grits  with sugar, but this is chiefly a food used by the wealthy on journeys.  Those who cannot afford sugar use only maize for a concentrated food.”  (114)

The Latter Harvest, J. Fisher, 1804