Popcorn Learning Fun
For many years October has been celebrated as National Popcorn Month but it became official in 1999 when the Secretary of Agriculture declared October as National Popcorn Poppin’ Month. This versatile and relatively healthy snack has definitely been a staple for many families across the United States and beyond. Can you imagine going to a movie without getting coke and popcorn? But what’s the history behind this popular snack food?
History of Popcorn
The first evidence of people popping corn was found in a bat cave by archaeologists in Mexico dating back to around 3600 BC. The popularity of popcorn increased with the invention of the popcorn maker by Charles Cretor. A candy store owner in Chicago, he used the same steam-powered machines for roasting nuts to popcorn kernels. This lead to street carts having these steam-powered popcorn makers. Being a very inexpensive treat, popcorn was very popular during the depression and actually became a source of income for farmers trying to make a living during a period of great hardship. One such family, known for a very popular brand of popcorn, were the Redenbacher family. The well-known treat also became increasingly popular with the dawn of movie theatres.
Science Experiments with Popcorn
Let’s take our popcorn study a step further and explore some scientific concepts related to popcorn!
- Why Does Popcorn Pop? Here’s a great explanation.
- Dancing Popcorn– Use baking soda, vinegar, and water to make kernels dance!
- Popcorn Science experiment– This would be a great idea for a science fair.
- How to Make a Recycled Can Popcorn Machine– A fun idea for older kids or younger ones with a lot of adult supervision.
- Popping Popcorn in super Slow Motion– These guys are a bit silly but it is really cool to see corn pop in slow motion!
- Experiments with popcorn– There are a few here which would be a fun way to test out scientific theories.
Absolutely Awesome Popcorn Recipes
All of this information about popcorn might be making you hungry so how about some recipes on how to make popcorn?
- Do you like it simple? You can make it with just a brown bag and popcorn in the microwave. No need to buy the microwavable bags and you do not even need oil for popping corn.
- No paper bag? It can not get much simpler than this. Just make sure you use a microwave safe bowl and plate.
- Microwave Caramel Corn– This is definitely a family favorite!
- Ranch– Melt 4 tablespoons butter with a 1-ounce packet ranch seasoning mix; toss with 16 cups hot popcorn and 2 tablespoons chopped chives. Season with salt.
- Three Cheese– Toss 16 cups hot popcorn with 2 cups shredded cheddar, 1 cup grated parmesan and 1/2 cup grated pecorino; spread on baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees F until the cheddar melts, 3 minutes. Season with salt. (of course, you could just pick your own favorite cheeses!)
- Pepperoni Pizza Popcorn– Cook 1 cup chopped pepperoni in 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a large pot until crisp; drain on paper towels, reserving the drippings. Pop 3/4 cup popcorn kernels in the drippings; toss with the pepperoni, 1 cup shredded mozzarella, 1/2 cup grated parmesan, 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 teaspoon each granulated garlic and dried oregano. Season with salt.
- Chipotle Popcorn– Melt 4 tablespoons butter with 2 tablespoons chipotle hot sauce and 1 tablespoon chipotle chile powder; drizzle over 16 cups hot popcorn. Toss with 2 cups corn nuts. Season with salt.
- Salt and Vinegar- Combine 1/4 cup malt vinegar and 2 teaspoons kosher salt in a small spray bottle; shake to dissolve the salt. Spray over 16 cups hot popcorn.
- Cinnamon Sugar- Drizzle 6 tablespoons melted butter over 12 cups hot popcorn; toss with 4 cups cinnamon cereal (such as Cinnamon Toast Crunch), 1/3 cup sugar, 2 teaspoons cinnamon and 1 teaspoon finely ground sea salt.
- Maple Pecan– Heat 2 cups sugar, 1 cup maple syrup and 1/2 cup light corn syrup in a large pot until it reaches 260 degrees F on a candy thermometer, about 12 minutes. Add 3 cups pecans and cook 2 minutes. Stir in 3 tablespoons butter until melted, then pour over 16 cups hot popcorn; toss to coat. Spread on baking sheets and let cool.
Corny Popcorn Fun Facts
- How many calories are in popcorn? At just 31 calories a serving air popped corn is a low-calorie treat.
- Popcorn can pop up to 3 feet in the air!
- Popcorn is a whole grain. It is made up of three components: the germ, endosperm, and pericarp.
- Most popcorn comes in two basic shapes when it’s popped: snowflake and mushroom.
- Nebraska produces the most popcorn out of all the states.
- Americans eat almost 17 billion quarts of popcorn each year. How much is that? That amount could fill the Empire State Building 18 times!
- Popcorn has more protein than any other cereal grain.
- Autumn is the most popular time of year for popcorn consumption
- Americans eat more popcorn than any other country
- The Aztecs used popcorn during ceremonies. Several young women would dance a “popcorn dance” with popcorn garlands on their heads.
Jamie Gaddy, B.S., M.Ed., Ed.D. has been a college education professor for over 17 years. Education has been an integral part of her life in both the classroom and as a principal. Six children later found her dissatisfied with traditional schooling and homeschooling became the better fit. She is also a pastor’s wife, remote project manager, and entrepreneur who now homeschools four of her six children (ages 11-17) in southern Georgia. Jamie loves to share about her homeschool experience and help other homeschoolers find success. Connect with her at [email protected]