Corn was first domesticated about 10,000 years ago in what is now Mexico. Archaeologists discovered that people have known about popcorn for thousands of years. The six major types of corn are dent corn, flint corn, pod corn,popcorn, flour corn, and sweet corn.In Mexico remnants of popcorn have been found that date to around 3600 BC. Popping of the kernels was achieved by hand on the stove-top through the 19th century. Kernels were sold on the East Coast of the United States under names such as Pearls or Nonpareil. The term “popped corn” first appeared in John Russell Bartlett’s 1848 Dictionary of Americanisms

Popping results are sensitive to the rate at which the kernels are heated. If heated too quickly, the steam in the outer layers of the kernel can reach high pressures and rupture the hull before the starch in the center of the kernel can fully gelatinize, leading to partially popped kernels with hard centers. Heating too slowly leads to entirely un-popped kernels: the tip of the kernel, where it attached to the cob, is not entirely moisture-proof, and when heated slowly, the steam can leak out of the tip fast enough to keep the pressure from rising sufficiently to break the hull and cause the pop.

Producers and sellers of popcorn consider two major factors in evaluating the quality of popcorn: what percentage of the kernels will pop, and how much each popped kernel expands. Expansion is an important factor to both the consumer and vendor. For the consumer, larger pieces of popcorn tend to be more tender and are associated with higher quality. For the grower, distributor, and vendor, expansion is closely correlated with profit: vendors such as theaters buy popcorn by weight and sell it by volume.

As the oil and the water within the kernel are heated, they turn the moisture in the kernel into pressurized steam. Under these conditions, the starch inside the kernels softens, and becomes pliable. The internal pressure of the entrapped steam continues to increase until the breaking point of the hull is reached: a pressure of approximately 135 psi and a temperature of 356 °F. The hull thereupon ruptures rapidly and explodes, causing a sudden drop in pressure inside the kernel and a corresponding rapid expansion of the steam, which expands the starch and proteins of the endosperm into airy foam. As the foam rapidly cools, the starch and protein polymers set into the familiar crispy puff. When the popcorn has finished popping, sometimes un-popped kernels remain. Known in the popcorn industry as "old maids," these kernels fail to pop because they do not have enough moisture to create enough steam for an explosion. Re-hydrating prior to popping usually results in eliminating the un-popped kernels.


In the popcorn industry, a popped kernel of corn is known as a "flake." Two shapes of flakes are commercially important. "Butterfly" flakes are irregular in shape and have a number of protruding "wings". "Mushroom" flakes are brain-shaped, with few wings. Butterfly flakes are regarded as having better mouthfeel, with greater tenderness and less noticeable hulls. Mushroom flakes are less fragile than butterfly flakes and hold coatings better and are therefore often used for packaged popcorn or confectionary, such as Carmel or kettle corn. The kernels from a single cob of popcorn may form both butterfly and mushroom flakes; however, hybrids that produce 100% butterfly flakes or 100% mushroom flakes exist. Growing conditions and popping environment can also affect the butterfly-to-mushroom ratio.



Fun Facts:

Spoor farms grows and sells both Butterfly and Mushroom popping varieties.

There is no such thing as GMO popcorn. All popcorn you purchase is Non-GMO! Make sure you don’t pay more just for the label next time you go shopping for this delicious snack.