Corn Origins

Olmecs were an ancient civilization living in the tropical area of Central and Southern Mexico, now corresponding to the states of Veracruz and Tabasco, on the isthmus of Tehuantepec. Olmec Civilization fl ourished between 1400 and 400 B.C. The are considered as the fi rst Central-America Civilization, laying the basis for all the cultures coming later. The Olmecs’ rise was probably favoured by alluvial plains which provided fertile soil for corn cultivation.
Inca Empire was the biggest pre-Columbian empire of the American Continent, lasting from the XIII th to the XVI th century with its Capital City of Cuzco, now in Peru. During its maximum expansion (around 1532), Inca Empire included a signifi cant part of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. The city of Cochabamba, now in Bolivia, was considered the “Grange of Incas” thanks to its extensive corn cultivation.


Gandino: The First Place in Lombardy where Corn was Cultivated
History proves that Gandino was the 1st place in Lombardy where corn was cultivated. Back in 1881, Filippo Lussana, a local historian, painter, poet and physiologist informs us that the fi rst cultivation of corn in Lombardy took place in Gandino, in 1632. In his treatise called “Due autografi contemporanei alla peste del MDCXXX ed alla prima coltivazione del mais in Lombardia” he informs us that a foreigner nobleman from Belluno (Italy) is said to have brought corn seeds to Gandino. This nobleman called Benedetto Miari was said to have already successfully cultivated corn in his Veneto lands in 1617.

Benedetto Miari probably brought the seeds to Gandino during one of his journeys together with the Patriarch of Venice Baron Federico Maria Giovannelli and Barons Benedetto and Andrea Giovanelli, Representatives of the Venetian Republic, while they were coming back to their hometown Gandino. Miari planted the seeds in the farm of Federico Maria Giovannelli, in a place called Clusvene.


The Project

Something that has the fl avor of culture, history, tradition. Something that comes from the territory, from people’s will to rediscover their ancient tastes in an environmentally sustainable way. All this is a corn variety called Mais Spinato di Gandino. It is product of excellence from Gandino, a municipality belonging to the tourist district “Le Cinque Terre della Val Gandino”, near Bergamo (Italy). It is a recently rediscovered product, which the municipality now wants to promote and safeguard.

Innovation and tradition

This project started in 2008, with the aim of “safeguarding and promoting the Gandino corn variety called Spinato di Gandino”. Historical reasons as well as a fi rm will to rediscover an agricultural tradition of the territory guided the choice.

Sustainable development

The concept of sustainable development has guided this project, an all-round approach to culture and agriculture involving schools, public institutions, representatives of local communities, the inhabitants of the Gandino area, local companies, restaurants and craftsmen.


The Municipality of Gandino, the De.Co. (Municipal Declaration of Origin Commission), the local promotion association Pro-Loco, the Community of Mais Spinato di Gandino and the scientifi c partner Unità di Ricerca per la Maiscoltura CRAMAC (Centre for Corn Cultivation Research) of Bergamo. Thy all worked together for the success of this project.

A New Life

A new life began in 2008 when two corncobs where found along with some grains in an old farm of Gandino called Ca’ Parecia. After a fi ve-years-long genetic selection these seeds were brought back to original purity. In this way a very old product came back to life.


The Mais Spinato di Gandino is preserved by the CRA-MAC (Centre for Corn Cultivation Research) of Bergamo, by the “seeds bank” Banca del Germoplasma of Pavia (Italy) and in the Norwegian Svalbard Global Seed Vault. This famous underground place preserves thousands of seeds, and is located 1,200 km away from the North Pole.


Pre-Columbian sculptures are a symbol of a return to origins and, at the same time, of an opening to the world. A borderless world



Corn is a cereal whose origins can be found in Central and South America. Ancient populations such as the Olmecs, Mayans, Incas and Aztecs heavily related on its cultivation. It was imported in Europe after Christopher Columbus discovered America in 1492. Corn’s scientifi c name is Zea Mays L. In Italian and in Gandino’s dialect is also known as mais, granoturco, biàa, cinquantI, formentù, masèngh, melgòt, melgù, ostanèl, quarantì, meliga.

The Italian name “granturco”, or Turkish Corn, apparently derives from the fact that it was usual in the XVI century to defi ne as “Turkish” any product coming from the colonies, or from the East or West Indies.
Corn Cultivation in Italy is testifi ed in the Venetian Republic in 1554, expanding to the rest of Italy within fi fty years. Cornmeal rapidly replaced fl our for bread and “polenta”, the famous dish of Northern Italy. It soon became the crucial food for poor people, for whom it was sometimes simply accompanied by herbs and cheese. In most cases it was considered, however, a single dish. The Gandino corn variety is called “Spinato”, i.e. endowed with “beaks” or “thorns”. Actually, grains have a very peculiar, pointed shape, that may remind of a thorn. This shape is said to come from the ancient South-America corn varieties. This corn variety has been the subject of studies and improvements since 1920, by Tito Vezio Zapparoli, the 1st Director of the Centre for Corn Cultivation Research of Bergamo.

Corn can be considered a real vegetable lab. Besides its traditional use as cattle food, it can also be used for oil, cornmeal for polenta, bread, pasta, pastries, corn fl akes, whiskey and beer. It fi nd its use also in dextrins, maltose, glucose, antibiotics, vaccines, and also in non fattening products. Among its industrial uses we can list: paper, glue, bio-sourced plastics, biofuels, biopolymers for textile yarns and industrial enzymes.

Expo, the 'Agrarian brings the Corn Spinato and fair trade on TV
il mais spinato di gandino
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