Who Doesn’t Love Popcorn?

Who doesn’t love popcorn? It can be buttery fluffy, ooey-gooey, made into balls and even cakes.

Whichever way you choose, it’s delicious.

To kick off our new site and our new blog, we’ve assembled some fun facts about popcorn. Some of these gems are little known to the general public. So get ready to impress your friends the next time you head to the theater or have a movie-watch night.

Interesting Popcorn Facts:

  • Popcorn is as old as the hills. Well, not exactly, but remnants of popcorn were found in Mexico that date to around 3600 BCE.
  • At least six localities (all in the Midwestern United States) claim to be the “Popcorn Capital of the World;”: Ridgway, Illinois; Valparaiso, Indiana; Van Buren, Indiana; Schaller, Iowa; Marion, Ohio; and North Loup, Nebraska.
  • As the result of an elementary school project, popcorn became the official state snack food of Illinois. Only six states have an official “state snack.” Does yours?
Mile Hi Popcorn
  • Americans consume more than 17 billion quarts of popped popcorn annually or 42 quarts per man, woman and child. This amount would fill the Empire State Building 18 times.
  • Popcorn is one of the most wholesome and economical foods available. In fact, it rose to popularity during the Great Depression because it was so economical. It hit another peak usage period during WWII when sugar was in short supply.
  • The state of Nebraska produces an estimated 250 million pounds of popcorn per year—more than any other state. This is equivalent to a quarter of all the popcorn the United States produces every year.
  • Don’t store your unpopped popcorn in the refrigerator, as it will dry out the moisture in the popcorn. The ideal place to store popcorn is in a cool, dry cupboard.
  • Kernels of popcorn can pop up to 3 feet high.
  • Looking for a protein boost? Popcorn has more protein than any other cereal grain. It also has more iron than eggs or roast beef. It has more fiber than pretzels or potato chips.
  • Did you know that during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, popcorn was eaten just as we eat cereal today. In fact, long before her husband’s company came out with corn flakes as a breakfast cereal, Ella Kellogg enjoyed her popcorn for breakfast with milk or cream.
  • Popcorn Ball Battle: In small town America, where recognition is King, there is a battle for supremacy of the popcorn ball.

As it seems, the battle began in 1995 when the small town of Sac City, Iowa built a ball weighing in at a mere 2,225 pounds, or just over one tone. The state’s Boy Scouts then built a ball that was 2,377 pounds. Sac City then built one way 3,100 pounds. Then, Lake Forest, Illinois built a ball weighing in at 3,423 pounds.

Sac City responded with the biggest ball yet. They built one weighing 5,060 pounds. That ball stands a scant 7.5 feet tall and is a mere 29 feet in circumference.

But the battle didn’t end there. In 2015, according the Guinness Book of World Records, a new ball was unveiled, besting the Sac City offering by 1,450 pounds. The ball was unveiled at the Indiana State Fair.

The world’s largest popcorn ball was created at the Indiana State Fair, besting the previous Guinness World Records’ record by 1,450 pounds; the 6,510-pound popcorn ball, which is 8 feet in diameter and has a circumference of 24 feet, 9 inches, was unveiled at the Ball State Agriculture / Horticulture building and sets the new world record for the Largest popcorn ball, according to the World Record Academy:

  • Popped popcorn comes in two shapes: “snowflake” or “mushroom.” Because “snowflake” shaped popcorn is bigger, movie theaters typically sell that shape.
  • In ancient times, people would make popcorn by heating sand in a fire and then stirring kernels of popcorn in the hot sand.
  • When explorer Felix de Azara visited Paraguay in the 18th century, he noted that the people would place kernels on a tassel and then when it was boiled in fat or oil, the grains would burst. Women would adorn their hair at night with the popcorn.
  • Thanks in large part to Orville Redenbacher, approximately 70% of popcorn sold in America is eaten in the home. The other 30% is eaten in theaters, stadiums, school, etc.
  • By volume, popcorn is America’s favorite snack food.
  • Americans eat more popcorn than any other country. Most of the popcorn eaten around the world is grown in the United States.
  • While it is a popular story, there is no evidence that Native Americans brought the Pilgrims popcorn at the Thanksgiving dinner. While Native Americans in South America, Central America, and the southwestern region of the U.S ate popcorn, there is no evidence that Native Americans in Massachusetts or Virginia did.
  • Contrary to popular belief, popcorn is not the only corn able to pop. Many flint and dent corns also pop, but their flakes are smaller. Additionally, some varieties of rice, milo, millet, and sorghum also pop. Some varieties of quinoa, a sacred Incan food, also pops like popcorn, as does amaranth.
  • A kernel of popcorn contains just a small amount of water. When these kernels are heated, the water turns to steam and the kernels “pop.” Popcorn is different than many other grains because its shell is not water permeable, making it possible for pressure to build up until the kernel finally explodes.
  • Unpopped popcorn kernels are called “spinsters” or “old maids.”
  • You can keep your unpopped kernels (old maids), soak them in water and then re-pop them.
  • An American electronics expert, Percy Spencer, working for Raytheon Manufacturing Corporation, invented microwave popcorn. When he paused in front of a power tube called a magnetron in 1945, he felt a “weird” feeling and noticed that the tube had melted a chocolate candy bar he had in his pocket. He decided to see if it would pop popcorn, which it did. Thus, the microwave oven was born.
  • Popping popcorn is one of the number one uses for microwave ovens. Most microwave ovens have a “popcorn” control button.
  • American businessman Charles Cretors invented large-scale commercial popcorn machines in 1893. His was the first automated machine that could pop popcorn in its own seasonings uniformly.
  • Evidence in Peru suggests that popcorn existed as early as 4700 B.C., making it one of the oldest forms of corn. Peruvians didn’t just pop their corn; they also ground it into flour to cook in other ways.
  • The world’s oldest known popper, a shallow vessel with a handle and hole on top was designed around A.D. 300. The first popcorn machine made its debut 1,500 years later at the 1893 World’s Fair (Columbian Exposition) in Chicago.
  • The Aztecs used popcorn during ceremonies. Several young women would dance a “popcorn dance” with popcorn garlands on their heads. They also used popcorn as decoration for ceremonial headdresses, necklaces, and ornaments on statues of their gods.
  • When televisions became popular in the early 1950s, popcorn sales decreased because people stayed home to watch movies rather than go to a theater.
  • Orville Redenbacher is the #1 best-selling popcorn in the world. Its inventor, Orville, began to grow popping corn in 1919, when he was just 12 years old.
  • A 1,000-year-old popped kernel of popcorn was found in a dry cave in the southwestern part of Utah.
  • Popped corn contains large amounts of protein, vitamins, and minerals. Among other health benefits, popped corn helps build bones and muscle tissues and assists in digestion. It is also rich in antioxidants (polyphenols). Most of the nutrients are found in the “hull” or shell rather than the fluffy, white part. However, popcorn that has too much butter, oil, or salt compromises its health benefits.
  • A cup of plain popcorn contains just 31 calories.
  • Bizarre popcorn flavors include Beer-flavored Pub-Corn, Yo-Pop’s Butterfinger Crunch Popcorn, KukuRuZa’s Buffalo Blue Cheese Popcorn, Popcorn Palace’s Jalapeno popcorn, Jolly Time’s Mallow Magic Yummy Marshmallow Flavor Microwave Popcorn, Popcorn Pavilion’s Brown Butter & Sea Salt Popcorn, Kernel Encore’s Pumpkin popcorn, Popcornopolis’ Cupcake popcorn, and 479˚ Popcorn’s Black Truffle and White Cheddar popcorn. What’s your favorite?
  • Popcorn has been sold in theaters since 1912. It has been a big money maker not only because popcorn is overpriced, but also because people usually get thirsty and, consequently, buy sodas or water as well.
  • The scientific name for popcorn is Zea Mays Everta.
  • If you made a trail of popcorn from New York City to Los Angeles, you would need more than 352,028,160 popped kernels!
  • October is National Popcorn Month.
  • Each kernel of popcorn contains a small drop of water stored inside a circle of soft starch. Popcorn needs between 13.5-14% moisture to pop. The soft starch is surrounded by the kernel’s hard outer surface.

As the kernel heats up, the water begins to expand. Around 212 degrees the water turns into steam and changes the starch inside each kernel into a superheated gelatinous substance. The kernel continues to heat to about 347 degrees. The pressure inside the grain will reach 135 pounds per square inch before finally bursting the hull open.

As it explodes, steam inside the kernel is released. The soft starch inside the popcorn becomes inflated and spills out, cooling immediately and forming into the odd shape we know and love. A single kernel can swell to 40-50 times its original size! The first bit of starch that emerges forms a “leg” of sorts, which catapults the kernel like a gymnast as the remaining starch spills out. Therefore, popcorn jumps as it cooks.

Facts were gleaned from a variety of sources on the Internet, including: The Popcorn Institute, Popcorn.org, TravelIowa.com and delish.com.

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