Baltimore County News
By Bronwyn Mitchell, Maryland Agricultural Resource Council
It’s known by many names -- Indian, ornamental and flint. It comes in all of the shades and hues of the season. It was key in unlocking genetic mysteries which led to a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. It is maize – the colorful varieties to be correct.
Many mistakenly call maize corn. However corn was an ancient German/French term used before the 1600s to refer to the major crop in a region. For instance England’s corn was wheat, while Scotland’s corn was likely oats. Therefore, when Columbus took maize, the major crop of the Native Americans, he would have likely referred to it as Indian corn – and for some reason when the word corn fell out of fashion, it somehow stuck to this particular grain.
Like the majority of our grains, maize is a grass. Its seeds are, in fact fruits. A cob is a collection of flowers. When a flower is pollinated, a kernel emerges. The male portion of the flower is the tassel found at the top of the plant. This is where the pollen lies. Maize relies upon wind rather than bees or other animals for pollination. The female part of the flower are those pesky silks – each one connected to a single kernel. A grain of pollen must find its way to and through the silk to complete the pollination process. Amazing feats of engineering go into every ear.
Corn naturally comes in different colors, just like the natural variations in color of all living things, including humans. Selective breeding is the reason why the corn we eat and grow for stock feed is all consistently yellow or whitish. Thankfully, someone thought it aesthetically important to maintain the existence of colorful corn. Our doors, fence posts, and tables would be naked without them.
A farmer can be careful and plant only a single color to maintain purity. Or a farmer can throw the genetic dice and see what crazy combinations occur. Remember that each kernel relies on a single grain of pollen from another plant.
Take a look at this crazy ear. It must have been a windy day to get such a multitude of variation on one ear. Those variations are pretty easy to understand – thanks to the pioneering work of Gregor Mendel, the father of genetics, and his pea plants.
Take a closer look at these kernels. They are not a solid color. Some of them are mottled, striped or dotted. The why behind this phenomena was answered by another scientist who dedicated her life studying a single plant – maize.
Born in 1902 Dr. Barbara McClintock attended Cornell University's College of Agriculture where tuition was free. Barbara continued to study, earning her PhD and dedicating her life to research.
There weren’t too many doors of opportunity available to women in the sciences at that time. As a woman, she was not allowed to be a professor. Instead, she supported herself with a grant from the National Research Council, conducting research wherever she could borrow lab and field space.
Dr. McClintock discovered that the patterns in maize were caused by genes moving from one part of a chromosome to another. Scientifically speaking, the phenomena is known as a transposon, or jumping gene for the non-scientists. A gene will move from a pigment area portion of the chromosome to a non-pigment area or vice-versa, thereby turning on or turning off the gene and creating different patterns within the kernel.
When the research was first presented, it was roundly rejected by the greater scientific community because it didn’t follow in the Mendel mold. Undaunted, Dr. McClintock continued to amass additional data. When other scientists studying other organisms happened upon jumping genes, Dr. McClintock was finally given the due she deserved. In fact, her discovery opened the door to understanding antibacterial resistance as well as giving insights into cancer.
In 1993, Dr. McClintock was the first women awarded a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the groundbreaking research that started by looking closely at ears of colorful maize.
Think you may have a Nobel Prize winner in your family? Start them off on the right road by leading them into the Pick Your Own ornamental corn fields at the Maryland Agricultural Resource Center in Cockeysville. The fields are open from sunrise to sunset. It’s $1 per ear or $2 per stalk.
Nothing goes better with ornamental corn than wine and French Jazz. Make plans to come out for a Picking Party and wreath making workshops at the Maryland Agriculture Resource Center Sunday, October 16 from 10 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Organizers of Baltimore County Restaurant Week—the Baltimore County Office of Tourism and the Baltimore County Chamber of Commerce—are pleased to announce its 12th bi-annual promotion beginning on Friday, August 5, through Saturday, August 20. Joining Sysco this year are two new sponsors for the August promotion—RestaurantReputations.com and CohnReznik LLP.
Participating restaurants from across the area will feature special menus at discounted, fixed prices, offering one to three course brunch, lunch and dinner specials ranging from $15 to $35.
“Foodies and patrons alike look forward to Restaurant Week—it’s a great time for them to experience places they’ve been meaning to try at a big savings,” stated Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. “I encourage everyone to experience the many diverse cuisines in the County and support the local restaurant industry.”
As restaurants register, County residents can view the updated list of participating restaurants.
Social media partners for the promotion include Downtown Diane, CITYPEEK and The Restaurant Association of Maryland.
Baltimore County Restaurant Week Extended
The recent blizzard didn’t just bring three feet of snow our way, it also brought a whole extra week to enjoy the “meals and deals” of Baltimore County Winter Restaurant Week! Shake off that case of cabin fever by getting out of the house to enjoy a fantastic meal that someone else has to prepare and clean up.
A majority of participating restaurants have chosen to extend their special fixed priced menus through February 6th, giving you extra time to explore and enjoy what Baltimore County’s wonderful restaurants have to offer. Diners can discover new restaurants and enjoy old favorites at a discounted price, with one to three course lunch and dinner specials ranging from $15 to $35. With over thirty-five restaurants extending their deals, there is sure to be something for every taste and occasion.
Please visit baltimorecountyrestaurantweek.com to view a list of participating restaurants, peruse menus, and make reservations. Try that fancy place you’ve heard such great things about, or frequent your favorite local hotspot. Either way it’s a delicious time to dine in Baltimore County!
Revised September 26, 2016