National Popcorn Day is this week and with it comes a celebration of the snack that goes hand-in-hand with movies. It’s hard to imagine what watching our favorite flicks might be like without a bucket of puffy, crunchy, salty, buttery popcorn in our laps or sharing a bowl with our friends. Popcorn might be America’s favorite snack, but it’s also an ancient food with a crazy history. Read on for some fun trivia about popcorn!

1. Popcorn has a scientific name.

Popcorn isn’t just the name that we call the popped version of the snack itself. It’s actually a specific type of corn that has the scientific name of Zea mays everta and it’s the only kind of corn in the world that pops in that fluffy way.

2. Popcorn’s hull is what makes it pop.

Popcorn has a thicker hull than other kinds of corn. That means the pressure from heated water inside eventually bursts and the cooked insides quickly cool, giving popcorn its distinctive shape.

3. Popcorn is over 5,000 years old.

In fact, it may even be older: fossil evidence from Peru suggests that popcorn was being popped as early as 4700 B.C.! That means humans have been munching on popcorn for almost 7,000 years.

4. America makes more popcorn than anywhere in the world.

Nebraska is by far the biggest state when it comes to popcorn production, making about 250 million pounds per year. It makes sense that we’d produce so much because…

5. Americans eat about 17 billion quarts of popcorn a year.

Some estimates put that higher or lower, but it averages out to about 58 quarts per person per year. That…is a lot of popcorn.

6. That’s enough to fill the Empire State Building 18 times.

A lot of popcorn.

7. There are two different shapes of popcorn.

All popcorn is equal but it’s not the same. There are actually two different shapes of popcorn: snowflake and mushroom. The snowflake kind is used in more commercial entertainment settings like movie theaters and ballparks because it pops up bigger. Meanwhile, the mushroom shape is used in candy confections because it doesn’t crumble as easily.

8. Popping corn can get some serious distance.

The explosion of pressurized air in a popping kernel of popcorn might be tiny, but it’s powerful. A single piece of popcorn can shoot a distance of three feet into the air when popping.

9. There’s a word used to measure the percentage of kernels that pop in a batch.

It’s called “popability.”

10. There’s also a name for the unpopped kernels that remain at the bottom of a bag.

The unpopped popcorn kernels are known as “old maids.”

11. If you were to make a string of popcorn from Los Angeles to New York City, you’d need more than 352,028,160 pieces of popcorn.

But how many would you need to go around the world?

12. Native Americans used to make beer and soup out of popcorn, too.

In ancient times, popcorn had more uses than just being a snack. But when they did eat it as a snack, Native Americans usually flavored it with dried herbs and spices – exactly what we do today.

13. They also believed a tiny spirit lived inside each kernel of popcorn.

Some tribes believed each kernel of popcorn houses a tiny spirit. They were benign spirits that didn’t bother humans, but if their home was heated, they’d eventually burst out of the kernel in their anger.

14. Popcorn is America’s #1 snack food.

By volume sold, popcorn wins by a mile and it’s not even close.

15. In 1949, a U.S. Senator tried to get popcorn banned in theaters.

His reasoning? It was too noisy.

16. World War II is what cemented the relationship between movie theaters and popcorn.

During WWII, sugar was rationed. It resulted in less candy being manufactured and thus, sales of popcorn were increased in movie theaters around the country and America has never looked back.

17. In the 1800s, popcorn was eaten as a cereal.

In fact, popcorn was eaten exactly as we eat cereal today, with milk and sugar.

18. The first commercial popcorn machine was invented by Charles Cretors in 1885.

Cretors was a Chicago candy store owner who had invented a number of steam-powered machines for roasting nuts and he later applied that technology to popcorn.

19. There are approximately 1,600 kernels in a single cup of unpopped popcorn.

I bet you never would have guessed there were that many!

20. Scientists discovered the perfect temperature to pop popcorn is 356°F (180°C).

In 2015, French engineers Emmanuel Virot and Alexandre Ponomarenko did a series of tests that determined that at 356°F, the percentage of old maids left unpopped got down to only 4%.

As a final fun fact, popcorn is gluten-free and low in calories, so snack away!

  • Editorial