9 Interesting Facts About Popcorn For Kids

Popcorn is a food that is enjoyed by lots of kids. For some, it is an occasional treat associated with going to the movie theatre. For others, popcorn is part of their regular rotation of snacks, packed in lunch boxes or as an after-school option for hungry bellies. The popularity of individual bags that can be tossed in the microwave for a few minutes has elevated popcorn to a new level. Little kids can make their own freshly popped batch without the help of parents. Those who can't get enough will enjoy these fascinating popcorn facts. Also, be sure to check out the best children's books about popcorn for more information about the history and all the varieties of this popular snack.



Fun Popcorn Facts 

Old Maid is a name for a kernel at the bottom of the bag that never popped.
No matter how closely you follow the instructions, it is almost impossible to pop all the kernels without jeopardizing the entire bag. Adding a few more seconds on the microwave timer may garner a few more pops, but at the risk of burning the already perfectly formed popcorn. So while the outdated term "Old Maid" refers to unmarried women, it has also been playfully used to refer to the kernels that don't pop. 

popcorn bags

Popcorn was invented more than 5,000 years ago.
Charles Cretor is credited with inventing the very first popcorn machine in the 1880s. However, archeologists have found evidence  of popcorn from Peru perhaps dating back to 4,700 B.C. Archaeologists were fascinated to discover corn cobs filled with puffed kernels. It is highly likely that the indigenous were heating up kernels over flames when they, quite unexpectedly, witnessed the transformation when they started popping.


bowl of popcorn


Popcorn is very popular in Nebraska.
This produces approximately 250 million pounds of popcorn every year, more than any other place in America. Approximately 67,000 acres of farmland spreading across 30 counties is devoted to growing corn specifically to make popcorn. The rich soil content and irrigation supply make this ideal land for the crop. In fact, more than 30% of the popcorn distributed throughout the United States comes from Nebraska.

child eating popcorn

Pillsbury is credited with the popularity of microwaveable popcorn.
Their product, rolled out to the market in 1982, was found in the frozen food aisle of the grocery store. The original product contained real butter, a perishable ingredient that required freezer storage. Also, food scientists could not preserve the coconut oil, used to heat the kernels, for extended periods on the shelf.  Within 2 years after introduction, total sales skyrocketed to $53 million. 


Popcorn is a healthy alternative to junk food.
Compared to other crunch snack food like chips, popcorn is lower in both fat and calories. Popcorn can also provide a good source of protein, which equates to about 3 cups for a full serving. Popcorn is also gluten free, making it a great option for people with dietary restrictions. Of course, all of this information assumes that popped corn is eaten in its simplest form without the addition of butter or salt. And forget about the kettle corn varieties which are high in sugar and other unhealthy additives.


bucket of popcorn


Why some kernels do not pop.

It may seem logical that some kernels need just a little more time to pop. However, the truth really lies in the water content inside each kernel. As it heats up, the water releases steam which eventually causes the pressure necessary to trigger a pop. So as frustrating as it may be to see some of those wasted kernels, keeping them on the stove or microwave a little longer is an exercise of futility.


 popcorn kernels

The biggest popcorn ball weighed 9,370 pounds.

Sac City, Iowa is home to the Noble Popcorn plant. Volunteers have joined together several occasions over the years in an attempt to break previous records set in this same town. The most recent record was set in 2016, consisting of a gigantic ball of popcorn weighing a whopping 5 tons. This spectacular creation required 900 pounds of corn kernels, 2,500 pounds of sugar, and 1,400 pounds of syrup! The enormous structure measured about 12 feet in diameter.



National Popcorn Day is January 19th.

There is a holiday for almost everything and popcorn is no exception. The details around exactly who and when this day honoring popcorn was established. Some credit the Department of Agriculture for marking the holiday as a way to support farmers who grow corn. Other sources suggest it could have been the brainchild of a popcorn manufacturer in an effort to promote sales. An even more interesting idea is that the producer of a holiday calendar needed to add more reasons to celebrate in January. Regardless of the origin, it is a day for people to pop some corn and watch a movie together.


family eating popcorn

There are two distinctive shapes of popcorn.

You may have never before considered the fact that popcorn comes in two very different forms. The first is called mushroom popcorn, aptly named for the round shape of the kernel after it has been popped. The combination of plant genetics and popping methodology cause the kernel to protrude from the side, resulting in an end product that resembles the vegetable from which its name is derived. The second is called butterfly popcorn, a whimsical name due to the wing-like protrusions. When the kernel reaches a high temperature, it bursts from the middle causing a fun, irregular-shaped snack most often served in movie theatres.  


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