The Mayans practiced 'slash and burn' agriculture. They cut down an area of forest and burned the trees to clear the land for additional crops. The ash from the burnt trees acted as fertilizer, nourishing the crops as they grew.
Maize was the staple food of the Mayans but they also grew beans, chillies, sweet potatoes and squashes. The Mayans also ate fruit like papaya, watermelon and avocados. Besides fruits and vegetables, the Mayans also ate a variety of meats. Animals such as deer, turkeys, dogs, fish, peccaries (wild pigs) and a kind of rodent called an 'agouti' were staples of the Mayan diet. The Mayans also kept bees for honey.
In the mornings Mayans ate a porridge made of maize and chillies called 'saka'. During the day they ate dumplings made of maize dough with vegetables or meat inside them. The dumplings were called tamales and they were wrapped in leaves from maize plants. The main meal was in the evening. Mayans ate maize pancakes called tortillas. They were eaten with 'stew' made with vegetable and meat.
The Mayans were also some of the first people to use the cacao beans (used to make chocolate). The cacao beans were ground into a powder, mixed with spices and consumed as a frothy, bitter drink by the elite members of society.