Maize (Zea mays L.), the third most important crop in India after rice and wheat is grown across the country throughout the year. In fact, it is perhaps known only to a few that India is the fifth largest producer of maize in the world.
Though each state cultivates both indigenous and hybrid varieties, the hilly state of Mizoram has its own unique varieties in an array of delightful colours. The state is blessed with fertile land, abundant supply of water from many rivers, hilly terrain and excellent climatic conditions (cool summers, mild winters and heavy rain in the monsoon).
A sizeable number of small and marginal farmers either grow maize as a single crop or intercrop with paddy, turmeric, ginger, vegetables like brinjal, bitter gourd, pumpkin, cucumber and melon, pulses and oilseeds. Maize thrives in the loamy soil rich in organic matter and rainfed conditions.
Interestingly, maize is divided into three groups as per taste and use. Mimban is the starchy, sticky, low-yielding and long duration maturity variety that is most preferred by the locals. Besides mimban, mimpui which is the large cob used primarily as feed or roasted, puakzo which is used for popcorn, coloured maize (red, yellow, white, black and variegated), sweet corn and short duration native varieties are also grown.
It is estimated that more than 18,000 hectares of land is under maize cultivation with more and more farmers replacing the rabi crops of french beans, rajma and vegetable mustard with sweet corn after finding significant improvement in quality and overall production and monetary gain. As farmers adopt the organic, natural and zero farming techniques, the natural sweetness and taste of the corn is not altered by the use of pesticides.
Maize is used as food, feed, fodder and has widespread industrial uses. The wet milling process produces pure starch, sweeteners, maize oil, maize starch, sweet corn milk, creamed corn and others while the dry milling process produces corn meal, whole maize meals and kernels used to make beer and distilled liquors.
Maize features in the local delicacies and are either boiled or mixed with pulses and vegetables or roasted or made into a drink.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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