ḎORRAT, maize or (Indian) corn, Zea mays L. (fam. Gramineae), with many varieties and hybrids (see Ṭabāṭabāʾī, pp. 140-62).
Terminology. This important cereal, of American origin, was introduced into India in about 1500 by the Portuguese, and from there it reached southern Persia in the Safavid period (907-1145/1501-1732), probably through Portuguese and Spanish merchants (Pūr(-e) Dāwūd, p. 137). In India, Persia, and other Middle Eastern countries its names are not reminiscent of its native American name mahiz/mays; instead, the names of familiar cereals, especially millet, sorghum, and wheat were applied to it, sometimes with modifiers. In India vernacular designations for millet or sorghum included jo/awār (for other variants, see Platts, s.v. jowār), originally referring to Sorghum sudanense (Piper) Stapf (cf. Pashto [ḡaṭ-] jwār, lit., “(big) millet,” jo/awārī “sorghum” in the 16th-century text of Abūnaṣrī Heravī, pp. 100-01) and Hindī mak(k)ā/makāʾī “Meccan” because of the supposed Arabian provenience of sorghum (for hypotheses about the diffusion routes of sorghum from East Africa, see Watson, chap. 2; Dymock et al., III, pp. 579-80; cf. obsolete Persian ḏorrat-/gandom-e Makka “millet/wheat of Mecca,” given as synonyms for g/jāvars in Tonokābonī, s.vv.; Azeri Turk. maka/matša < maka būḡdā, lit., “Mecca wheat”; eastern Gīlakī makā-ba/ī/ūj, lit., “Mecca rice”). Other terms for millet or sorghum applied to corn include Persian ḏorrat (Kurd. zōṟāt, Ar. ḏor(r)a < Akkadian durra “a certain kind of millet”; Hrozný, tr., pp. 147-48; cf. ḏora ṣafrāʾ “yellow sorghum” in Syria, ḏora šāmīyya “Syrian sorghum” in Egypt), mısır (darı) “Egyptian (millet)” in Turkey, and Yazdī goʾars, originally “millet.” Terms for wheat (Pers. gandom) applied to corn include bābā-gandam, lit., “daddy wheat” (probably an allusion to the beard-like corn silk) in western Gīlān, kū-gand/nem “mountain wheat” in Māzandarān, and gan/rma šāmī “Syrian wheat” and ganmok, probably “little wheat,” in Kurdish (see Hažār, s.vv.). Other appellations for maize, of uncertain origin, include Māzandarānī kāve, Lāsgerdī zorok, and Kurdish sardārī (probably related to a certain sardār “chief, general”) and ganma pēḡambarāna, lit., “prophets’ wheat.”
Cultivation. According to the most recent available statistics (for 1367 Š./1988-89) the areas under cultivation of corn in Persia included 48,560 ha producing 156,450 metric tons of ḏorrat-e dānaʾī (lit., “seed corn,” i.e., sweet corn) and 32,390 ha producing 581,090 metric tons of ḏorrat-e ḵūšaʾī (sorghum) and ḏorrat-e ʿolūfaʾī (lit., “fodder corn,” i.e., varieties of field corn; Markaz-e āmār, pp. 17, 40). The larger areas under cultivation of “seed corn” were in the ostāns of Fārs, Ḵūzestān, Sīstān and Baluchistan, and Māzandarān, in that order; those under cultivation of both “field corn” and sorghum were in the ostāns of Tehran, East Azerbaijan, Sīstān and Baluchistan, and Fārs, in that order (Markaz-e āmār, pp. 96, 119).
Uses. In Persia, sorghum and “field corn” are used mainly for cattle feed and “seed corn” for poultry and occasionally cattle feed. In some poor rural districts cornmeal is occasionally added to wheat flour to make an inferior bread. The most conspicuous use of corn is in the form of balāl (probably from, or akin to, Hindī bāl “ear of corn”; Platts, s.v.), ears of sweet corn with soft, milky grains (šīr balāl, lit., “milk corncob”) roasted over charcoal in sidewalk braziers or in the open, then dipped in salt water, and eaten on the spot in the summer. Popcorn (čos-e fīl) is also made.
In popular medicine an infusion of kākol-e ḏorrat/balāl (corn silk), alone or with dom-e gīlās (bigarreau-cherry stalks), is recommended as a diuretic and a lithotriptic, for treatment of gout, nephritis, and infections of the urinary tract (Jazāyerī, pp. 116-18).
Qāsem b. Yūsof Abūnaṣri Heravī, Eršād al-zerāʿa, ed. M. Mošīrī, Tehran, 1346 Š./1967.
W. Dymock et al., Pharmacographia Indica . . ., 3 vols., London, 1890-93.
ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān Šarafkandī Hažār, Farhang-e kordī-fārsī, 2 vols., Tehran, 1368-69 Š./1989-90.
B. Hrozný, Die älteste Geschichte des Vorderasiens und Indiens, 2nd ed., Prague, 1943; tr. M. David as Histoire de l’Asie antérieure, de l’Inde et de la Crète depuis les origines jusqu’au début du second millénaire, Paris, 1947.
Ḡ. Jazāyerī, Zabān-e ḵorākīhā, 3rd ed., I, Tehran, 1354 Š./1975. Markaz-e āmār-e Īrān, Sar-šomārī-e ʿomūmī-e kešāvarzī-e 1367.
Natāyej-e tafṣīlī-e koll-e kešvar V, Tehran, 1371 Š./1992.
J. T. Platts, A Dictionary of Urdū, Classical Hindī, and English, London, 1930; repr. Oxford, 1982.
E. Pūr(-e) Dāwūd, Hormazd-nāma, Tehran, 1331 Š./1952.
M. Ṭabāṭabāʾī, Gīāhšenāsī-e kārbordī . . . I. Gīāhān-e zerāʿathā-ye bozorg, Tehran, 1365 Š./1986.
Moḥammad-Moʾmen Ḥosaynī Tonokābonī (Ḥakīm Moʾmen), Toḥfat al-moʾmenīn (Toḥfa-ye Ḥakīm Moʾmen), Tehran 1360 Š./1981(?).
A. M. Watson, Agricultural Innovation in the Early Islamic World. The Diffusion of Crops and Farming Techniques, 700-1100, Cambridge, 1983.
Originally Published: December 15, 1995
Last Updated: November 29, 2011
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Vol. VII, Fasc. 5, pp. 519-520