Maize or corn is a new world crop like potatoes, soy beans or peanuts. While potatoes are not considered kitniot, peanuts are mostly not considered kitniot and soy beans are disputed, maize has been universally accepted as kitniot by nearly everybody. Why?
The OU asks the same question and compares maize with peanuts: "Why is corn different from peanuts? One possible distinction is that corn exhibits many characteristics of kitniyot (it is threshed, winnowed and milled and used in bread, and it often grows near other grains), while peanuts possess very few of these characteristics. Since corn has many of the same qualities as kitniyot, it is regarded as kiniyot." (OU: Curious about Kitniot)
Chabad compares to potatoes and brings some linguistic/usage-based explanation: "Maize is generally considered to be kitniyos, whereas potatoes are not. Interestingly, the etymology of the names of these foods may give us some insight into this dichotomy. While the common name for maize (from the Tahino word “mahis”) is “corn” – and in the United States this usage is quite clear – the origin of the word “corn” is quite different. The word “corn” can be traced back to the ancient Indo-European word “grn,” which literally meant a small nugget. In German, this word became “korn” and in Latin, “grain,” both of which include any edible grass seed. In practice, these terms refer to the predominant grain in a given country. In the Americas, it refers to maize, in Scotland to oats, and in Germany to wheat or rye. Indeed, old English translations of Pharaoh’s insomniac premonitions refer to “seven sheaves of corn,” which was really one of the five grains. Yiddish speakers are similarly prone to this confusion, since they often use the term “korn” to refer to grain. It seems, however, that the popularity of corn – and its resulting assumption of this sobriquet – was sufficient for the custom of kitniyos to extend to this new “grain.” (Chabad: Know Thy Beans)
Let’s consider the botanical basics. Maize is a cereal grain like the five grains and rice. Botanically, it would make sense to consider it kitniot. Maize flour is commonly used the same way grain flour would be used, so people could easily get confused. Basically – it just makes sense!
- Danger of chametz traces: Don’t know.
- Danger of confusion with chametz (raw): No.
- Danger of confusion with chametz (processed): Yes, as flour. The flour is used often as a substitute for grain flour.
- Botanical categorization: Grain cereal.
- Known in 13th century: No.
- Verdict: Kitniot.