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History of Popcorn



by Holly Hartman

Tens of thousands of years before there were movies, there was popcorn.

Stone Age Snack?

Archaeologists have found 80,000-year-old corn pollen below Mexico City.   Because this pollen is almost exactly the same as modern popcorn pollen, researchers believe that " cave people" most likely had popcorn.

Popcorn probably grew first in Mexico, though it was also used in China and India hundreds of years before Columbus reached the Americas.

Tasty Fossils

The oldest popcorn ever found was discovered in the " Bat Cave" of central New Mexico.  It is thought to be about 5,600 years old.  In tombs in Peru, Archaeologists found ancient kernels of popcorn that are so well preserved that they can still pop.                                                         

Sometimes, conditions can preserve ancient popcorn so perfectly that it still looks fluffy and white when the dust is blown off of it.  In a cave in southern Utah, researchers found surprisingly fresh-looking 1,000-year-old popcorn.

Popcorn was probably an important part of life in the ancient Americas. On a 1,700-year-old painted funeral urn found in Mexico, a corn god is shown wearing a headdress of popcorn.  Decorated popcorn poppers from around the same time have been found in Peru.

An Explosive Discovery

Europeans learned about popcorn from Native Americans. When Cortes Invaded Mexico, and when Columbus arrived in the West Indies, each saw natives eating popcorn, as well as using it in necklaces and headdresses.

Native Americans brought a bag of popped corn to the first Thanksgiving. A common way to eat popcorn at that time was to hold an oiled ear on a stick over the fire, then chew the popped kernels off it. Natives throughout the Americas also made a popcorn beer. Some made popcorn soup.

After learning about the fluffy food, colonists began enjoying the first puffed breakfast cereal - a bowl of popcorn, served  with cream or milk.

Popcorn and Americans: True Love

Popcorn was very popular in the United States from the Late 19th century through the middle of the 20th century. It was available in parks, from the street vendors, and near theaters.

During World War II, when sugar was rationed, Americans changed their snacking habits - they ate three times as much popcorn as they had before. Perhaps the favorite place to eat popcorn was at the movies. When television took off in the 1950s, popcorn sales dropped for a while.

Today, the average American eats nearly 70 quarts of popcorn a year. But the United States isn't just a land of popcorn lovers - it's also the land of popcorn.

Tips for Popping

                            Range Top Popping                                                                  

To pop popcorn on a range-top, assemble the following:

* a 3- to 4- quart pan with a loose lid that allows steam to scape                     

* at least enough popcorn to cover the bottom of the pan, one kernel deep  

* 1/3 cup of oil for every cup of kernels ( Don't use butter! )

Heat the oil to 400 - 460 degrees  Fahrenheit ( if the oil smokes, it is too hot).Tes the oil on a couple of kernels. When they pop, add the rest of popcorn, cover the and shake to evenly spread  the oil. When the popping begins to slow, remove the pan from the stove-top. The heated oil will still pop the remaining kernels.


Salt to teste, after popcorn has been popped completely, and is still warm.


Without moisture- 13.5 percent to 14 percent per kernel is needed -popcorn can't pop. That's why it's important to store popcorn correctly, An entire percentage of moisture can be lost if your kernels are left uncovered on a hot day. And though that may not sound like a lot, it adds up. A loss of 3 percent can render popcorn unpoppable. And even a 1 percent drop in moisture will harm the quality of your kernels.


Basic Popcorn

1/2 cup uncooked popcorn.

1. Heat 3-quart covered saucepan over high heat for 2 minutes.

2. Tablespoons cooking oil into the pan, covering botton. Some recipes use different oils for popping.

3. Lower heat to medium high.

4. Add 3 or 4 kernels.

5. When they pop, add rest of popcorn, cover, and shake pan continuously while popcorn is popping.

6. When popping stops, pour into large container. Make approximately 9 - 11 cups.

Calories per cup : 41

                                       Marshmallow Krispy Korn

8 cups popped popcorn.

1 cup puffed rice cereal.

3 tablespoons butter.

1 7 - ounce jar marshmallow cream.

Combine popcorn and cereal in large greased bowl.

Melt butter in medium saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat. Stir marshmallow cream.

Pour over popcorn mixture. Stir to coat evenly. Press mixture into greased 9 - inch square baking pan. Refrigerate until firm, about 4 hours. Cut into Bars.

Eat as one big square, if it makes you feel less guilty.

Yield: About 18 bars.