The history of popcorn

30 Jun
16 billion quarts of popped popcorn are eaten annually in the United States!
By all accounts, what we call corn or maize was cultivated in Mexico thousands of years ago by domesticating a grass called teosinte. Corn was so important to the Native Americans who farmed it that they incorporated the vegetable into their religion and creation stories. In the United States, corn is valued as not only a food but for medical research purposes and as the key ingredient in ethanol, a biofuel.
Although there are many variations of corn, there are five main types: dent, flint, sweet, waxy, and pop.
  • Dent is the most common type and is white to yellow in color. This versatile corn is used for food as well as making plastics and absorbent materials such as diapers, soap and cosmetics.
  • Flint comes in all colors and its kernels shrink upon drying. The kernels become very hard and are used for purposes similar to those of dent corn.
  • Sweet corn has a high sugar content and is the variety that we eat the most as a vegetable, whether it be as fresh corn on the cob, frozen, or canned.
  • Waxy is named after its appearance. With a high starch content, it is used in food for its thickening properties, and used industrially in adhesives. Like dent, it is also used to feed animals.
  • Popcorn is the most fun variety of them all! With a hard outer skin and a soft starchy center, the kernels pop open when heated to a certain temperature. Popcorn is a favorite snack and a must at the movies.
Native Americans believed that each kernel of popcorn had an individual spirit in it. The spirit grew angry as the kernel was heated and finally burst out to evaporate in a puff of steam. The real science behind why popcorn pops is almost as intriguing; it starts with the precise thickness of the hardened hull. According to Popcorn.org, “Each kernel of popcorn contains a small drop of water stored inside a circle of soft starch. As the kernel heats up, the water begins to expand and turns into steam, changing the starch inside each kernel into a superhot gelatinous goop. The pressure inside the grain will reach 135 pounds per square inch before finally bursting the hull open. The soft starch inside the popcorn becomes inflated and spills out, cooling immediately and forming into the odd shape we know and love. A kernel will swell 40-50 times its original size!
In ancient times, popcorn was used not only as food, but as a decoration, and still is used in that manner today! However, popcorn is best known as a healthy, versatile snack. It is most popular in the United States, where 16 billion quarts of popped popcorn are eaten annually! That breaks down to 52 quarts per every man, woman, and child. About 70 percent is eaten at home and the remainder in places such as movie theaters and stadiums, venues associated with fun. The main states were it and other kinds of corn are grown are Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, and Ohio.

Popcorn is not only yummy, it’s good for you! Air-popped popcorn is only about 30 calories a cup, add 20 calories if cooked with oil. Popcorn is a whole grain, providing complex carbohydrates for energy and fiber.

Because it is so versatile, popcorn can be used in an endless number of tasty ways. Popcorn balls, made with melted marshmallows and butter, are a favorite treat in the fall. The popped kernels can be ground up and used as a flour in baking. Tasty confections can be made with the addition of an almost limitless combination of both sweet and savory flavors.Popcorn Palace, in fact, make 27 different flavors of popcorn. Find your favorite today!

Hungry yet?

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