When we Americans sink our teeth into something, we like to do it bigger, badder and better than anyone else. Corn is the single biggest agricultural crop in the U.S., and we're the largest producer of it in the world—all thanks to some major innovation by Native American farmers over the course of several thousand years. They systematically bred "maize" grass to encourage cobs with kernels packed closely together, devised planting methods that worked in harmony with beans and squash (the "three sisters" method), and figured out ways to store the crops to prevent mildew and spoilage.

Food historian Dave DeWitt, who selected the 10 items on this list, notes in his book, Precious Cargo, that Columbus and his peers gave "mixed reviews" to maize. But over the centuries, it's evolved into one of the country's most versatile edible and drinkable crops, providing popcorn, cornmeal, corn grits, moonshine, bourbon, plain old corn on the cob and countless other truly American staples.

Explore TT's favorite corn recipes.