Popcorn is a specific type of corn kernel that can expand and puff. The endosperm contains up to 20% moisture, which is converted to steam upon heating, making it pop!
It’s one of the oldest snacks. In 1948, two men discovered popped kernels of corn that has been said to be almost 6000 years old. There were also drawings found on Mexican funeral urns, showing a maize god with popped corn kernels on his headdress. Aztecs also used popped kernels for decorations.
They were once part of breakfast! As colonists started to adopt Native American food, they ate it in different ways. Plain popped kernels were eaten as a snack, but it was often mixed with milk and sugar and eaten like a cereal. Sometimes they mixed it with thick molasses to make a sweet popcorn treat.
It’s a great healthy snack! One cup of popcorn only contains about 31 calories – that’s without butter, of course! When you consider that one cup of potato chips contains 137 calories, you can see why popcorn is the healthier choice. One cup also provides 1g of protein, 6g of carbohydrate, and 1g of fiber, with almost no fat.
It’s naturally gluten-free. Gluten is a type of protein found in grains like wheat and barley. Corn is naturally gluten-free, however, so that means popcorn is a great gluten-free option! If you are sensitive to gluten or have celiac disease, then choose popcorn next time you want to snack.
In 1885, Charles Cretors invented the first commercial (and mobile) popcorn machine. The mobility of the machine enabled street vendors to sell popcorn to theatre-goers, which is probably the reason why it became synonymous with movie-snacking.
When television became more popular and movie theatres less so, there was a dip in popcorn consumption. But not for long! When microwave popcorn was introduced in the 1980s, sales went through the roof!
It was one of the few snack foods that were affordable during the Great Depression. Even sugar was rationed, so popcorn was one of the very few ‘luxury foods’ available.
You should never store popcorn in the refrigerator. The moisture inside the kernel (which is responsible for the pop of the popcorn) will evaporate, and you will be left with many unpopped kernels.
You might have noticed that popcorn comes in two different shapes: snowflake (also known as butterfly) or mushroom. The butterfly shape looks bigger, so movie theatres prefer using this variety, whereas the mushroom type is most often used for candied corn.
Corn are not the only grains able to pop. You can also pop rice (like puffed rice), millet, and sorghum.