We think of corn as a vegetable. But the corn plant (zea mays) is actually a grass; the kernels on the cob, a grain. In fact, corn gets its name from an English word for grain--for any grain, actually, even salt grains (which explains "corned beef").
The stunning success of zea mays in early colonial America so overshadowed other grains that it quickly became known by this all-inclusive English term for grain--corn--as though it were the only grain in the world. The English still refer to it as "maize."
Gift of the New World
Corn emerged as perhaps the New World's greatest, most generous crop thanks to the mindful care and guiding hands of pre-Columbian Mesoamericans.
Through human manipulation, the ear grew over time from about the size of the pinkie finger to the size of a forearm.
Highly versatile, corn was life-sustaining. It could be eaten fresh or dried, ground and stored for later use; the stalks could feed livestock.
When the pilgrims arrived, Native Americans taught them to plant corn, which sustained them during the hard first years in the New World.