Unlike other cereals, it was not until the 19th century that the corn began to appear as a major agricultural investment in the archipelago. Widespread in the north, favored by the abundance of water, it acquires, however, a predominant place in the rural diet.
When flowering occurs, the corn cobs or “maçarocas”, as they are popularly called, are harvested, leaving the feet with the leaves on the ground, to feed the cattle.
The corn cobs are used tenderly, cooked, or the grain is threshed, that is, separated from the cob, for the flour production. In this case, the harvest is done and then dried in the sun for some time, in frames called "gastalhos", or in "pine cones", in front of the houses or terraces.
After drying a few days, the corn is threshed. To loosen the grain, it was traditionally used a small tool, called, the “canzil”, including a piece of wood, with three small iron arches, placed in one of the sides, or the corn cobs itself, rubbed together. This task was done at the domestic unit, using the help of neighbors. It was generally a task attributed to the female sex and constituted a moment of mutual help and joyful interaction.
Although its use was not very common on our island, there were manual corn thresters, such as this one belonging to the museum's collection, which were probably introduced to the archipelago by emigrants.
Through a crank, the user activated a gear, which allowed the threshing of the cobs quickly and with little effort. The corn cobs were placed in an opening, existing in the upper part, and the rotating movement of the crank, with two toothed wheels, inside, where the corn cobs lose their grains, which came out through a small iron gutter, at the bottom of this mechanism.
The Museum Collections.
The Cereal Cycle.
Credits: Museu Etnográfico da Madeira