History, Cultivation and Nutrition of Traditional and Gourmet Popcorn

Popcorn has been around for thousands of years. It’s cultivated in the Corn Belt of the United States and can be a hearty and healthy snack. Gourmet popcorn offers a tasty twist by adding sweet and savory ingredients to the traditional corn.

Popcorn dates back thousands of years ago, with evidence of fossilized cobs from as early as 4,700 B.C. in Peru and 3,600 B.C. in New Mexico. Since then, popcorn has become a staple food in North America and around the world. During the 1800s, up until the Great Depression, corn cultivation thrived because it was inexpensive to harvest and feed to families. As popularity increased, popcorn vendors began showing up in parks, circuses, carnivals, and at sporting events. In the 1900s, as movies and television emerged, 96% of U.S cinemas sold popcorn in their theatres, whereby earning its reputation as the ideal big-screen snack. The popcorn of that era was far different from the gourmet popcorn we have today.

Today most corn is grown in the American Corn Belt states, including Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Illinois, Kansas, Iowa and Ohio. An adult popcorn stalk grows to about 8 feet in height, producing cobs encapsulated in husks. In order for kernels to be produced, pollination must occur. Pollination is when the strands from the cornhusk catch pollen from feathers on the top of the corn plant. After the plant is mature, it is harvested, dried, cleaned, separated, polished and ready to pop. For a more detailed cultivation process, visit Popcorn.org. This is the first step to getting gourmet popcorn.

Popcorn has three parts known as the endosperm, pericarp, and germ. As one of the five types of corn, popcorn is the only one that pops from its outside hull, the pericarp, when heated. The pericarp is usually yellow, but can be red, black, purple or white. Inside the pericarp, there is the endosperm, also known as the carbohydrate. The living part of the corn is called the germ. When heat is applied to the kernel, steam is created and the moisture inside the endosperm expands, rupturing the pericarp and bursting into a puffed mushroom or flower shape. This is due to a precise amount of moisture (13.5-14%) inside the kernel. If this moisture is not present, the kernel will not pop. There are several ways to cook gourmet popcorn, including stovetop, over the fire, in a hot air popper, or in a microwave, which revolutionized at-home consumption during the 1940s.

Popcorn is a good source of fiber and aids in digestion. As a natural food product, it is low in calories and does not contain much fat. Nutritionists even recommend this whole-grain snack as part of a healthy diet because it has antioxidants and complex-carbohydrates. However, its nutritional value changes when salt and other additives are added.

“Gourmet” popcorn can refer to all natural ingredients, locally grown crops, popped using a specialized technique or by adding a sweet or savory punch to the traditional corn. Anything from caramel, cheese and chocolate, to dill, ketchup or all dressed seasoning can be added to stimulate taste buds beyond the plain air popped crunch. Nuts, such as pecans or cashews, as well as chocolate pieces, can also be found in gourmet popcorn ( https://www.jerrysnuthouse.com/popcorn/ ) blends, making great snacks at birthday parties, game days and movie nights. Browse our delicious selection of gourmet popcorn and treat yourself to this timeless snack. Sharing is optional.

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