Americans consume some 13 billion quarts annually of popcorn, a whole grain, good-for-you treat. That’s 42 quarts per man, woman, and child.
Popcorn is a type of maize (or corn), a member of the grass family, and is scientifically known as Zea mays everta. Popcorn differs from other types of maize/corn in that it has a thicker pericarp/hull. The hull allows pressure from the heated water to build and eventually bursts 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.
Compared to most snack foods, popcorn is low in calories. Air-popped popcorn has only 30 calories per cup. Oil-popped is only 35 per cup.
Popcorn is a whole grain. It is made up of three components: the germ, endosperm, and pericarp, also known as the hull.
Most U.S. popcorn is grown in the Midwest, primarily in Indiana, Nebraska, Ohio, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky and Missouri.
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.
Popping popcorn is one of the number one uses for microwave ovens. Most microwave ovens have a “popcorn” control button. Two tablespoons of kernels make one quart popped popcorn. “Popability” is popcorn lingo that refers to the percentage of kernels that pop.
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.
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.
The world’s largest popcorn ball, according to Guinness World Records, was created in 2013 at the Indiana State Fair. The popcorn ball weighed in at 6,510 pounds and was eight feet in diameter.