Maíz (maize) is a Caribbean word that means the cause of life. The Nahuatl name for corn is centli. After the arrival of the Spanish, maíz prevailed in Mexico. Corn is an annual herbaceous plant. It reaches a height of over three meters, depending on growing conditions, and bears unisexual flowers. Masculine flowers sprout at the ends of stems; female blossoms grow in the axils of the leaves, forming dense spikes of tightly inserted grains, called ears.
Chapalote corn comes from a number of chapalote maize varieties. Cobs grow in an elongated, cigar-like form; kernels vary in texture, ranging from crystalline to farinaceous to sweet (i.e., with a high sucrose content).
Noteworthy varieties include those used to prepare popcorn and pinole, as well as those that feature blue, semi-farinaceous and sweet kernels, consumed as corn on the cob and esquite kernel salads.
Chapalote corn is one of Mexico’s oldest breeds; it features crystal-kernel ears that are brown in color; pink and red variants arise through breed husbandry.
Chapalote corn grows in lowland areas, mainly Mexico’s North Pacific.
Use and consumption vary according to kernel color. The North Pacific’s Yaqui, Mayo, Tepehuano, Cora, Huichol and Guarijío communities use it to prepare pinole, ponteduro, atole, popcorn, esquites and corn cookies.