chapter  13
29 Pages

The Story of Maize: Early farmers in the Americas

The Native Americans domesticated an impressive range of native New World plants, some of which-like maize, potatoes, and tobacco-were rapidly adopted by farmers on other conti-nents after European contact (Table 13.1). The most important staple crop was Indian corn, properly called maize, the only significant wild grass in the New World to be fully domesticated (B. Smith, 1998). It remains the most important food crop in the Americas, being used in more than 150 varieties as both food and cattle fodder. Root crops were another substantial food source, especially in South America, and included manioc, sweet potatoes, and white potatoes. Chili peppers were grown as hot seasoning; amaranth, sunflowers, cacao, peanuts, and several types of bean were also significant crops. Some crops, such as cotton and gourds, are common to both the Old and New Worlds but were probably domesticated separately.