Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Pop Goes the Corn

It's ice covered, it's snowing, it's cold, IT'S NATIONAL POPCORN DAY!
Popcorn can be a treat for families without many resources and can move into a gourmet expensive multi food.  Varieties include pre-packaged, microwavable, kettle, colored, jellybeans, theater, field, carmel, hulless, balls, gourmet, flavored and of course buttered. 

It's the "Official State Snack" of Illinois.  

There is evidence of popped corn as far back as 3600 BC.  Maize or corn is able to pop because of high moisture stored in the hard hull.  When heated it explodes.  There is more to it than that but that will be enough unless you want to research.  

If you have room, growing your own popcorn is supplying yourself (and most everyone you know) with a REAL taste treat.  Much like tomatoes, home grown popcorn has a different and vastly superior taste and performance.

Growing up on the farm, someone in the area was always growing popcorn and sharing with neighbors.  Not one for fancy gadgets, ours was popped in a iron skillet with a lid slightly cracked to allow steam to escape.  At first lard was used and then Crisco.  Since we had our own milk cows, a liberal helping of home churned butter completed the delight.  Indiana and Illinois are two of top states who provide the majority of commercial popcorn.

Never to leave a delicious food alone, nutritionists at times declare popcorn unhealthy.  Actually, unless you have stomach problems, it's the toppings and popping oil that are often the unhealthy issue.  It is a great diet addition and high in fiber.

Corn needs room to grow and I've not run across any local farmers who plant and sell popcorn.  Because it can cross pollinate with field or sweet corn (making it tough), it needs a dedicated producer to succeed.  Like all corn, it needs to be planted in rows to insure good pollination.   Areas with a large farming Amish/Mennonite population usually have vendors. 
How to Grow Popcorn SeedsWhat makes good popcorn, much like a good bowl of chili, depends on how you were raised.  If the popped kernel is mushroom shaped or with wings, chewy or airy, the kernels white, yellow or blue, how or in what it's popped, the kind of oil and of course, the topping.  The vessel used for popping is as varied as the popcorn itself.

Our friends, Nancy Jane and Roger, have the ritual of having popcorn as a meal on Sunday evenings.  Other family popcorn rituals are "movie night", after school kid snacks, Halloween treats, Christmas tree decorations, over the campfire, and popcorn fights.   Others claim it's the #1 food for Super Bowl Sunday!

Each person who grows popcorn believes their variety and cooking method is superb to others.  A few seed vendors:      Has four heirloom varieties and instructions                Has two varieties - both gray leaf spot resistant
Many farm stores, nurseries and garden centers have seeds that do well in your particular area.  Additional growing tips from your local county extension office.   for the Popcorn Board's web page - ideas and information a plenty.  They state, "Americans consume 16 billion quarts of popped popcorn annually or 52 quarts per man, woman and child."
We all better get planting if we're going to supply that amount of the delicious stuff. 

Popcorn ready for picking. - should I get out of my pajamas before I pop the corn, sit on the couch and read my book...

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