National Popcorn Poppin’ Month

One of the world’s most popular snack foods has an entire month dedicated to its consumption. Yup – October is officially National Popcorn Poppin’ Month, and the folks over at The Popcorn Board (a non-profit organization funded by US popcorn processors) are busy raising awareness and promoting the consumption of this tasty popped snack food. For more than 25 years popcorn has been celebrated during the month of October, and in 1999 the designation became official. Why October? Because this is the time when the popcorn harvest takes place in the Midwest.

Corn was first discovered in South America close to five thousand years ago, and quickly spread to North America where Native Americans introduced it to the English in the 16th and 17th centuries. It is the small droplet of water within the corn kernel that causes it to expand and pop when exposed to high heat, turning the kernel inside out. Popped corn was an integral part of Aztec Indian ceremonies, where it was used to decorate headdresses, necklaces and other ceremonial ornaments.

Today, the majority of popcorn comes from the United States where 16 billion quarts is produced each year (52 quarts per person). It has even become the official state snack for Illinois! Popcorn comes in a variety of shapes including; ‘snowflake’ or ‘butterfly’ (looks and pops big) and ‘mushroom’ (used for candy confections due to its round shape and because it doesn’t crumble). It also comes in an assortment of colours such as red or blue kernels, although no matter what the colour of corn all kernels will pop white. Popcorn also comes in a wide variety of flavours, everything from extra butter to chocolate-marshmallow, Cajun and even jalapeño. No matter your taste preference guaranteed there’s a flavour shaker just for you!

Because popcorn is a whole grain, it provides carbohydrates and fibre and is naturally low in fat and calories. Of course like anything healthy, douse it in enough bad oil, butter and salt and suddenly popcorn ain’t so good for you anymore! In fact, a recent study conducted on movie theatre popcorn found that a medium-sized popcorn and soda can pack the nutritional equivalent of up to three Quarter Pounder Burgers topped with 12 pats of butter. Yikes – all those calories for mediocre tasting popcorn that has been sitting way too long under a heat lamp and costs more than the actual movie ticket.

The invention of microwave popcorn in the 1980’s helped catapult this popular munchie to the top of the snack food chain. In fact, popping popcorn has become the main function of microwave ovens with the majority of machines having a specific popcorn setting! However in our household the favourite way to enjoy popcorn is simply to pop it over the stove (click here for the World’s Best Popcorn recipe). Definitely healthier not to mention tastier than movie theatre popcorn, although plain air-popped popcorn is the healthiest way to indulge at 31 calories per cup, with oil-popped corn 55 calories per cup and movie theatre popcorn 60-80 calories per cup.

Want to add flavouring? Why not try Chef Michael Smith’s addictive Butterscotch Popcorn (click here for the recipe) or Gale Gand’s Cheddar Cheese Popcorn (click here for the recipe). Confession? Ever since my trip to Chicago I have been craving the city’s famous Garrett’s Chicago Mix Popcorn, so I ended up mixing the two flavours and making my own version!