Having missed mentioning the USA’s National Popcorn Day (Sunday 19th January). Which should never be confused with National Popcorn Month (October). Or Caramel Popcorn Day (Monday 7th April). I thought I should jolly well make amends and do so now, if for no other reason than in honour of its connection to the Super Bowl, of which across the US hundreds of thousands of gallons will be munched through today. The following quick heads up over a few, from many, little-known facts about the sports, home/movie theatre staple food.
1. Each kernel contains a tiny drop of water. Which is why, when heated, the water expands causing the kernel to explode and turn itself inside out.
2. In the US, popcorn consumption declined significantly during the 1950s with the invention of the television. People stopped going to the ‘movies’, resulting in poor sales of popcorn. The humble microwave restored the snack’s popularity, as did the ‘movie’ theatre industry when it reinvented itself to appeal to the masses.
3. The world’s known oldest piece of popcorn is around 5,600 year old, which was found in a bat cave in New Mexico in 1948.
4. The average American eats 17 gallons of popcorn a year! As a whole, America eats 4.3 billion gallons of popcorn a year!!!
5. Compared to most snack foods, popcorn is low in calories. Air-popped popcorn has only 31 calories per cup. Oil-popped is only 55 per cup. Lets not mention caramelised, or toffee covered while we are ahead!
6. Popcorn is a type of maize (or corn), a member of the grass family, and is scientifically known as Zea mays everta.
7. Of the 6 types of maize/corn—pod, sweet, flour, dent, flint, and popcorn—only popcorn pops.
8. Popcorn is a whole grain. It is made up of three components: the germ, endosperm, and pericarp (also know as the hull).
9. Popcorn needs between 13.5-14% moisture to pop.
10. Popcorn differs from other types of maize/corn in that is has a thicker pericarp/hull. The hull allows pressure from a heated source to build and eventually burst open. The inside starch becomes gelatinous while being heated; when the hull bursts, the gelatinized starch spills out and cools, giving it its familiar popcorn shape.
11. Most U.S. popcorn is grown in the Midwest, primarily in Indiana, Nebraska, Ohio, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky and Missouri.
12. Many people believe the acres of corn they see in the Midwest during growing season could be picked and eaten for dinner, or dried and popped. In fact, those acres are typically field corn, which is used largely for livestock feed, and differs from both sweet corn and popcorn.
13. The peak period for popcorn sales for home consumption is in the fall.
14. Most popcorn comes in two basic shapes when it’s popped: snowflake and mushroom. Snowflake is used in movie theaters and ballparks because it looks and pops bigger. Mushroom is used for candy confections because it doesn’t crumble.
15. Popping popcorn is one of the number one uses for microwave ovens. Most microwave ovens have a “popcorn” control button. (Definitely not the case in the UK).
16. “Popability” is popcorn lingo that refers to the percentage of kernels that pop.
17. There is no such thing as “hull-less” popcorn. All popcorn needs a hull in order to pop. Some varieties of popcorn have been bred so the hull shatters upon popping, making it appear to be hull-less.
18. Popcorn kernels can pop up to 3 feet in the air.
19. The world’s largest popcorn ball was created by volunteers in Sac City, Iowa in February, 2009. It weighed 5,000 lbs., stood over 8 ft. tall, and measured 28.8 ft. in circumference.
20. If you made a trail of popcorn from New York City to Los Angeles, you would need more than 352,028,160 popped kernels! (No idea how this is known, so questions should be directed at a rocket scientist or an Arch bishop).
21. American vendors began selling popcorn at carnivals in the late 19th century. When they began to sell outside movie theaters, theater owners were initially annoyed, fearing that popcorn would distract their patrons from the movies. It took a few years for them to realize that popcorn could be a way to increase revenues, and popcorn has been served in movie theaters since 1912.
There are hundreds more popcorn facts, but I need to shower and chill out…
And finally, an admission of my own, I really dislike the stuff, to the point where I would prefer to eat a piece of heavy-duty Axminster Carpet from the floor of my living room… But hey, 319,510,848, americans can’t be wrong. (Est for 2014). Perhaps it’s just me… Yours Aye.