All About Popcorn
All you need to know
From Seed to Snack
What is Popcorn?
Popcorn is a whole grain maize product. It resembles corn-on-the-cob in appearance and cultivation, although only popcorn kernels have the ability to pop.
Popcorn, like all six types of corn, is a cereal grain and originates from a wild grass. Its scientific name is Zea mays everta, and it is the only type of corn to actually pop.
Popcorn is made up of three main components: endosperm, germ and the pericarp (also known as hull or bran). The endosperm is made up of soft and hard starch granules. The endosperm is always white or yellow in color and is a carbohydrate. The function of the starch is to provide energy for the living part of the kernel, more commonly known as the “germ” or “embryo.” The outer hull of the kernel is the pericarp, which is made of cellulose. The pericarp or hull is usually white or yellow in color, though the range of colors includes red, black and many colors in between.
Most of the world’s popcorn is grown in the United States Corn Belt of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska and Ohio. Each spring, farmers plant popcorn seeds about 11/2 inches deep and 6 inches apart in the soil. That’s nearly 28,000 seeds per acre.
Breeding the Popcorn Seed
Popcorn seeds are bred to produce desirable traits such as stalk strength, grain color and successful popping. Plant breeders select popcorn for genetic traits by using inbreeding. Inbreeding is taking the pollen from the tassel (male flower) from a single plant and using that pollen to fertilize the silk (female flower) of that same plant. Inbreeding leads to genetic segregation, whereby the plant breeder is able to identify, select and save the seed of desirable plants. The breeder then takes the seed and inbreeds it again, and continues to select for desirable traits. It takes eight years of inbreeding until the plant selection is stable and is no longer segregating. Finally, two inbreds are crossed together to produce a hybrid, which is then planted as popcorn seed.
It's hard to believe a snack food that tastes so good can actually be good for you, but it’s true! Popcorn is a whole grain that is 100-percent unprocessed with no additional additives, hidden ingredients, or GMOs
- Air-popped popcorn has only 30 calories per cup; oil-popped popcorn has only 35 calories per cup.
- When lightly buttered, popcorn is about 80 calories per cup.
- Popcorn is a whole grain and provides energy-producing complex carbohydrates.
- Popcorn contributes fiber to the diet. Dietary fiber from whole grains or other foods may help reduce blood cholesterol levels and may lower risk of heart disease, obesity, and Type 2 diabetes.
- Popcorn is naturally low in fat and calories.
- Popcorn has no artificial additives or preservatives, and is sugar-free.
- Popcorn is ideal for between meal snacking since it satisfies and doesn’t spoil the appetite.
- 3 cups of popcorn equal one serving from the grain group.
- Whole grains are important sources of nutrients such as zinc, magnesium, B vitamins, and fiber.
National Popcorn Day
January 19th is National Popcorn Day, a day bursting with goodness and good taste. National Popcorn Day celebrates one of nature’s most extraordinary foods: popcorn! Popcorn has the unique ability to literally turn itself inside out, providing whole-grain goodness in a tasty snack.