Whether you pop it in your microwave, buy it at the movie theatre, or use it to decorate your Christmas tree, America loves popcorn. To help celebrate National Popcorn Day on January 19th, here is everything you ever wanted to know about popcorn.
- Although there are many references to corn mentioned throughout the historical record, the corn of Egypt and the corn of England were not the same thing. Corn was originally a term used for the most common grain in a specific place. Egyptian corn was likely barley, English corn was likely wheat, Irish corn was actually oats, and American corn was maize – which is what we consider corn today.
- From the start, wild corn was primarily used for popping and popped corn was prominent in early Indian cultures.
- Corn was popped by our ancient ancestors by using a fire to heat sand and then stirring the kernels in the sand until they reached the temperature necessary to pop.
- Throughout early Central American cultures, popcorn was used for nutrition, decoration, and ceremony.
- The introduction of the plow used for cultivating corn in the mid-1800’s led to the widespread introduction of corn as a farm crop.
- The first mobile popcorn machine was introduced at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. The inventor, Charles Cretors, designed the 500 pound machine so that it could be transported to locations where there was business like picnics and parks instead of trying to get business to come to a shop.
- Popcorn was popular through the Great Depression when it was still inexpensive enough to be a luxury many people could still afford.
- Popcorn sales soared during World War II as the lack of sugar made candy unavailable for most Americans who turned to popcorn to soothe their snack cravings. This increased consumption threefold.
- Popcorn’s tight relationship with movie theatres caused a big dip in sales with the introduction of the television. That persisted until microwave popcorn came along and brought people and popcorn back together.
- On average, each American eats 68 quarts of popcorn a year which equates to more than 17 billion quarts annually.
- Popcorn was a key factor in the development of microwave technology.
- Most bags of popcorn will contain one white kernel for every 9 yellow kernels.
- A kernel of popcorn can pop as high as 3 feet in the air.
- Kernels that don’t pop are called “old maids”.
- In 2009, the world’s largest popcorn ball was constructed in Sac City, Iowa. It was 8 feet tall and weighed 5,000 pounds.
- It would take more than 350 million pieces of popcorn laid end to end to go from New York City to Los Angeles.
- The oldest popcorn ears on record, from around 2000 B.C.E., were found in a cave in Mexico in 1948.
- Popcorn is a whole grain and much healthier than many other snack foods. One cup of air-popped popcorn contains 31 calories and three cups provides one serving of whole grains.
- Popcorn is high in fiber, sugar-free, contains no salt, and very little fat.
- Amazing Maize: The Science, History, and Culture of Corn (fillyourplate.org)
- Corn Belt (fillyourplate.org)
- Unusual Place to Find Sweet Corn (fillyourplate.org)