[Sca-cooks] maize and cubits

t.d.decker at att.net t.d.decker at att.net
Sat Nov 28 06:26:04 PST 2009

-------------- Original message from Sharon Palmer <ranvaig at columbus.rr.com>: -------------- 

> >Back on September 1, Bear said: 
> > 
> ><<< Leonard Fuchs refers to maize as Turkische Ko:rn in his herbal 
> >around 1543, 
> >but the best evidence is from Leonard Rauwolf who traveled between Tripoli 
> >and Baghdad in 1573-75. Along the Euphrates, Rauwolf observed, "Indian 
> >millet (maize) six, seven or eight cubits high." 
> >Bear >>> 
> > 
> >Something doesn't seem right here. Looking up the length of a 
> >"cubit" on the web I get varying measurements, but they range from 
> >"about 17 to 22 inches (43 to 56 centimeters)". Even assuming a 
> >conservative number of 17 inches that makes the shortest "Indian 
> >millet (maize) 102 inches or 8.5 feet tall and the taller up to 136 
> >inches or 11.3 feet tall. 
> > 
> >I know we've been breeding maize to be shorter and thus easier to 
> >harvest, but these numbers seem awfully tall. 
> > 
> >Stefan 
> Why assume they were looking at maize and not millet? A number of 
> varieties of millet were used in India since ancient times. I'm not 
> familiar with growing millet, but I found a reference that says it 
> can be up to 4 meters tall. On the other hand, someone seeing maize 
> for the first time might easily think it looked like millet. 
> Ranvaig 

Columbus first records maize as a type of millet, but he was apparently also aware of the differences.  Europeans were quite aware of millet having grown panic, foxtail, pearl and probably other varieties for food.

Rauwulf was a trained physician and botantis from Augsburg and would have been able to differentiate the various types of millet and other grains including Indian corn.  While the above quote comes from Rauwolf's travel book, his Vieretes Kreutterbuech might prove more enlightening about the actual plant.  (I haven't chased down the text yet.)

As to the height differences, there are varieties of maize that grow to 7 meters, while our modern commercial varieties average about 2.5 meters.  Height may also be determined by other variables, including soil, water, and planting density (closely planted maize grows taller).


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