Popcorn: The History of this Popped Treat


Winter time is the perfect excuse to go to the cinema. Firstly, it’s warm. Secondly, it gives you a chance to catch all the latest films with an immersive viewing experience. And thirdly, it allows you to indulge in your favourite movie theatre treats. While slurpies and candies are often mentioned, the true MVP of the cinema meal is, of course, popcorn! In today’s blog, we explore how this snack is made and how its existence even came to be.

What is Popcorn?

Popcorn (also known as popped corn) is a variety of corn kernel which expands and puffs up when heated. The foodstuff produced by this expansion also shares this name. It is one of six major types of corn which include:

Corn Varieties

  1. Dent Corn. Also known as grain corn, this type of field corn has a high soft starch content. Most corn grown in the United States is this variety. It gets its name because of the small indentation at the crown of each kernel on a ripe ear. Often you’ll find it in: cornmeal flour, corn chips, tortillas, taco shells, plastics, and fructose (used in soft drinks).
  2. Flint Corn. This corn gets its name because each kernel has a hard outer layer to protect the soft endosperm. It is linked to being as hard as flint; hence the name. This variety can also be eaten as popcorn as well as hominy. Additionally, it is one of three types of corn cultivated by North Americans.
  3. Pod Corn. Unlike the others, wild maize is not an ancestor but rather a mutant that forms leaves around each kernel. It is not grown commercially, but is preserved in some localities. Because of this appearance, it has had a religious significance to certain Native American tribes.
  4. Flour Corn. Primarily used to make corn flour, this variety comes with a soft starchy endosperm (tissue inside the seed) and a thin pericarp. They prefer drier climates to grow and show up in Aztec and Inca graves, western South America, and South Africa. The larger-seeded corns of Peru find themselves in the preparation of chicha.
  5. Sweet Corn. Our final type of corn packs a high sugar content. This is a result of a naturally occurring recessive mutation. To eat, farmers must pick it when it’s immature (milk stage). Then, it is prepared and eaten as a vegetable, rather than a grain.

The History

What is now Mexico domesticated corn about 10,000 years ago. And, archaeologists discovered people have known about popcorn for thousands of years. In fact, fossil evidence from Peru shows corn being popped as early as 4700 BC.

Originally, the corn kernels came un-popped with expansion happening by hand on a stove top. However, accessibility of the snack increased rapidly with the invention of the popcorn maker. What’s more, it was fairly inexpensive to buy. Thus, increasing its ever-growing popularity. It became a permanent instalment in movie theatres in 1938.

How Popcorn Pops

Each kernel of popcorn contains a certain amount of moisture and oil. However, the outer shell is strong to the moisture, and the starch inside consists of a hard type.

As the il and water heat inside the kernel, the moisture turns into pressurised steam. Additionally, under these conditions, the starch inside softens. Soon, the internal pressure of the trapped steam continues to increase until it reaches the breaking point of the hull. Thus, causing it to rupture rapidly and explode with its starch and protein expanding into an air foam. This foam then cools and sets into the familiar crispy puff.

Additional tops like butter, salt, or sugar may be added. But, the popcorn, once popped, is ready to be consumed!

About the Author

Lydia B.

Lydia B.

Lydia B. is a Marketing Coordinator and Music Club Coach for Gooroo, a tutoring membership that matches students to tutors perfect for them based on their unique learning needs. Gooroo offers Math, English, SAT, Coding, Spanish tutoring, and more.