There is nothing quite like the sound of popcorn popping. Co-workers or family members feigning deafness to a ringing telephone can be found lurching outside the breakroom or kitchen, miraculously hearing the sound of the first kernel popping. And if the sound doesn’t lure them in, the wonderful aroma of popcorn certainly does. While October is better known for pumpkins, gourds, ghouls, and ghosts, this month also serves as National Popcorn Poppin’ month. What a well-deserved celebration for America’s oldest (and best-loved) snack food.
We consume a whopping 15 billion quarts of popcorn annually, and popcorn remains one of the most economical snack foods at as little as 15 cents per quart. Popcorn’s popularity gained ground in the late 1880s as circus and carnivalgoers gobbled up bags of the white stuff.
Popcorn sales exploded in this country with the advent of “talkie” motion pictures in the 1920s, as movie theater owners increased profits by selling the tasty treat. Its popularity further “popped” by orders of magnitude with the production of the microwave popcorn bag in 1982. And who remembers eating “Cracker Jack” popcorn snack (and finding the prize hidden in the box)? Cracker Jack popcorn remains on store shelves, 120 years after its creation – now, that’s product longevity. Speaking of store shelves, popcorn sales increased 30% in April of this year as COVID-19 hit and families started holding “movie nights” at home.
Popcorn (zea mays everta) is a grass, similar to sweet corn or field corn. However, popcorn varieties have different starch and moisture content than these other types of corn. The moisture contained within the hard shell becomes steam when a kernel is heated, and once the steam pressure builds sufficiently, the kernel explodes (pops). Ohio farmers harvest their fields of popcorn in October and consumption of popcorn peaks this month, too. The buckeye state ranks in the top five states that produce popcorn!
Popcorn checks the box for every dietary palate since it is vegan, non-GMO, low fat, sugar free and tastes good. If one is watching caloric intake, pass on the butter, and instead use nutritional yeast for seasoning. Nutritional yeast, found at grocery stores or health food stores, contains good amounts of protein, B complex vitamins, and fiber, thereby rendering popcorn a guilt-free, yummy snack food. This yeast product has a cheesy, savory, nutty flavor that compliments popcorn well.
So, we salute the popcorn farmers in our county, as well as other farmers who plow, sow, raise, feed and harvest, providing food and products for us to thrive.
We encourage farmers to visit our website at https://soilandwater.co.delaware.oh.us/ to learn details regarding a virtual series of workshops sponsored by the American Farmland Trust and city of Columbus in November entitled, “Tap Your Potential: A Training to Grow Farmer Leadership in Watershed Management.”
Remember to enjoy some popcorn while participating in these valuable workshops.
Kim Marshall is the communication specialist for the Delaware Soil & Water Conservation District. For information, go to www.soilandwater.co.delaware.oh.us.