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Latin America & the Caribbean | Maize

Never sell or give away the first fruits of the maize harvest.Quiché* saying

Maize or corn is widely cultivated throughout the world and a greater quantity is produced each year than any other grain. A food staple in much of South and Central America, it provides an important source of carbohydrates, vitamin B and minerals, and compares favorably with root and tuber crops as an energy source. But it is a poor protein food. In Central and South America, maize meal is the main ingredient in bread or tortillas; maize can also be eaten when the kernels are still soft.

Thought to have originated in either Mexico or Central America, some of the earliest traces of maize date back about 7,000 years. It has been greatly honored for its ability to provide not only food but shelter, fuel, decoration and more. Because of its vital role in many native cultures, it was one of the important icons in the mythological traditions of the Mayan, Aztec and Incan civilizations.

Other South American staples range from rice and beans in Central America, to potatoes in the highlands of Peru and Ecuador, to grilled meat in Argentina (where people eat more beef per capita than any other country in the world), while the staple diet of most Caribbean islanders today includes breadfruit, cassava, sweet potatoes, yams, plantains, bananas and corn meal.

Coffee is a major beverage throughout the continent while maté, a caffeinated, tea-like beverage, is mainly popular in the southern region.

* The Quiché people are Mayan Indians living in the midwestern highlands of Guatemala.


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