Let's face it, popcorn is one of the coolest snack foods on the planet. It's soft and crunchy, it can be salty or sweet, and it explodes! Nearly everyone loves a bowl of warm popcorn, and most of us will still happily dig into leftover popcorn long after it cools. You probably know a ton about the kind of popcorn you like and all the crazy things you've done with popcorn since you were a kid, but did you know that popcorn is part of ancient culture, why it pops, or how many shapes of popcorn there are?
Today, we're diving into some of the most incredible facts about popcorn. Learn something new, wow your friends, and enjoy a tasty snack all at the same time.
Interesting Fact #1: Popcorn can pop up to 30 times its size and up to 3 feet in the air.
When a popcorn kernel pops, the moisture inside the kernel gelatinizes the gluten inside, which puffs up into a delicious explosion as the outer shell bursts. The force of that explosive carb-burst can throw a popcorn kernel up to three feet in the air and pop it over 30 times the kernel's original size in soft, puffy goodness.
Interesting Fact #2: You can cook popcorn in butter, oil, air-pop, and even hot sand
There are many different ways to cook Popcorn. You know that cooking popcorn in butter or oil is one way out of the many methods to cook popcorn. This method helps evenly distribute heat through the kernels from the bottom of the pan. You can also air-pop popcorn with the proper flow of heat and container. However, in ancient Peru, they had a different way to pop kernels with evenly distributed heat: hot sand. Peruvians would stir popcorn kernels into hot sand to help each kernel heat and pop.
Interesting Fact #3: Popcorn has been spotted throughout ancient North, Central, and South America
Popcorn is over 5000 years old, leaving traditions and relics throughout the American continents.
Designed around A.D 300, the world's oldest known popper was a shallow vessel with a handle and a hole in the lid. We now use awesome silicone bowls that prevent a single kernel from burning during the pop. You can see how we pop popcorn today with the Opopop Pop Cups Discovery Kit.
The discovery of a 17000-year-old funeral urn in Mexico had decorations of a maize (or corn) god wearing a popcorn headdress.
There were also discoveries in the southwestern part of Utah of a 1,000-year-old popped kernel of popcorn in a dry cave.
Explore Felix de Azara discovered Paraguan women in the 18th century would wear popcorn in their hair at night after popping it on strings dipped in hot oil. Before this, the Aztecs used popcorn for ceremonies. Young women would perform the "popcorn dance" with popcorn garlands on their heads. Popcorn was also used as decoration, necklaces, and adorned statues of gods.
American Indians further north once believed that spirits lived in the corn kernel and the "pop" was an angry spirit emerging in a burst of steam after his kernel had been disturbed.
Interesting Fact #4: The world's largest ball of popcorn was 24 feet wide and 9,370 pounds
Who doesn't love a popcorn ball? You can visit the world's largest popcorn ball in Sac City, Iowa. It is 24 feet wide and 9,370 pounds in weight. To make it, 250 volunteers spent 12 hours and 40 minutes compacting 900 pounds of popcorn, 2,500 pounds of sugar, and 1,400 pounds of syrup. Too bad we can't eat it.
Interesting Fact #5: Americans love popcorn more than any other country
Americans love popcorn. We eat more popcorn than any other country, and most of the popcorn eaten worldwide is grown right here in the US. The average American man eats almost 70 quarts of popcorn a year, and Americans consume more than 17 billion quarts of popcorn annually.
We also have a strong historical relationship with popcorn. During WWII, sugar rationing resulted in a restriction on candy, which meant we had to fall back on other snacks. Our favorite? You guessed it - the lightly salted bowl of popcorn. We discovered a lot of non-rationed popcorn flavors during this time. You can explore creative popcorn flavors with the Variety Show 2-Pack from Opopop.
Americans even went through a strange phase where they ate popcorn with milk and sugar, like cereal.
Interesting Fact #6: Unpopped popcorn kernels are called "spinsters" or "old maids."
Did you know that those unpopped popcorn kernels have a name? They're called "spinsters" or "old maids," after unmarried women from a previous time. Good quality popcorn should only be about 2% spinsters caused by kernels without enough moisture to create steam for the explosion.
Interesting Fact #7: Popcorn Comes in 3 Shapes: Snowflake, Mushroom, and Butterfly
There are three shapes of popcorn. Movie theaters prefer Snowflake popcorn because it bursts in a big and attractive way. Mushroom popcorn is common but less photogenic, while butterfly popcorn could pop into any possible shape or direction.
Interesting Fact #8: January 19th is National Popcorn Day
Looking for a special day to enjoy popcorn? It's the day you take all the popcorn garlands off the Christmas tree! We're kidding, don't eat those. Feed your stale holiday popcorn garlands to the hungry wintertime birds. But do pop a fresh, delicious bowl of popcorn for the family on January 19 to celebrate National Popcorn Day.
Interesting Fact #9: Nebraska grows the most popcorn
Over 1/4 of the national popcorn production comes from Nebraska, closely followed by neighboring agricultural states including Ohio, Illinois, and Missouri. But if you're ever in South Dakota, you must swing by the Corn Palace, a work of art made from the natural vivid color palette of native American corn kernels.
Interesting Fact #10: Popcorn Is Convenient & Nutritious
Last but not least, popcorn is one of the most convenient and healthiest snacks available. It's a superfood, somehow packed with nutrients while keeping the carb and calorie count at a critical low. It has more protein than any other cereal grain, more iron than eggs and roast beef, and more fiber than pretzels or chips.
Popcorn is tasty finger food, it packs well in a lunch and makes a fantastic gift. Many people use popcorn for weight loss because of its low-cal, high-nutrient balance, and with the right toppings, it can even be an energizing snack for your mid-afternoon pick-me-up.
Ready to discover something else remarkable about popcorn? Get started with snack-sized servings of fresh, steamy, fluffy deliciousness. Try the Pop Cups Discovery Kit that comes with 4 different flavors and includes a microwave popping bowl.