Have you ever wondered where popcorn comes from? Ever tried to make corn on the cob pop as a kid? If you are anything like me, you failed every time!
As it turns out, the corn kernels that we typically eat on the cob are much different than the kernels that become popcorn. There’s only one variety of maize (corn) that will make it, Zea mays everta (defined as corn having small ears and kernels that burst when exposed to dry heat). Though it looks like a typical corn kernel, this variety is the only one that has the ability to pop and turn into the delicious snack we have all come to love.
Brief History of Popcorn
Archaeologists have discovered that people have been eating popcorn for thousands of years. In Mexico there have been remnants of popcorn found that date to around 3600 BC! Many historians even believe that popcorn is the first corn that humans even knew about.
Common folklore indicates that the Native Americans showed the settlers how to make popcorn, however, there’s no evidence to substantiate that. It became a popular treat during the Great Depression because it was inexpensive. People all over the world have been eating it regularly ever since.
The combination of caramel and corn dates back at least as far as the 1890s with a strong molasses flavor, an early version of which was introduced at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.
Different Types of Popcorn
There are about one hundred different “strains” of this corn and each of them vary according to flavor, texture, and how they pop.
For example, one strain of popcorn pops up into a butterfly pattern and another looks like a ball! Gourmet popcorn usually requires the ball style popcorn, referred to as mushroom popcorn. It is denser and maintains its texture during the coating process. Butterfly popcorn, however, is the most popular for snacking and what you find at most movie theaters.
Growing Popcorn Kernels
The United States is the world’s largest producer of popcorn. It is mostly grown in states like Kentucky, Indiana, Iowa, Illinois, and Nebraska. A single acre of land uses close to 24,000 seeds and can net 1,000-4,000 pounds of grain! Once the plant is fully mature, the corn is picked and fed through a combine, which removes the kernels from the cob. These kernels are then dried in a special container, which optimizes the moisture level for popping. The kernel needs to maintain a 13.5% moisture level for it to pop.
Once the popcorn kernels have dried, they’re ready to pop! For them to do so, they need right around 450 Degrees Fahrenheit. There are a few methods to do this including air popping, oil popping, and microwaving. When the kernel is heated, the moisture inside the kernel turns to steam, which creates enough pressure for the starch to burst. The pressure is so intense that the kernel turns inside out. After that, we add the flavors!
We can all agree that popcorn is pretty amazing! And at Kernel Crate, we are making popcorn even MORE awesome! Want to see what we are up to?