Published on February 7, 2008
Popcorn!*How and when our favorite snack was created *: Popcorn!*How and when our favorite snack was created * By: Kirsten Marecek Description of Topic: Description of Topic There are many myths about how popcorn has originated, and how popcorn really does pop. My project consists of describing who and where popcorn was first invented or discovered, and also investigating how popcorn pops. When investigating facts about this popular snack, it is important to tie in standards that make the topic relevant in classrooms. It is a teacher’s responsibility to be able to relate their lessons to the standards and support their lessons with them. Question #1: Question #1 What is the history of popcorn? Question #2: Question #2 How is a popcorn kernel created? Question #3: Question #3 How does popcorn pop? Relationship of the questions to the Standards: Relationship of the questions to the Standards The three questions I have posed about popcorn relate to Standard 4, Key Idea #2. This states that an organism inherits it’s genetic information in a variety of ways that result in a continuity of structure and function between parents and offspring. One example of this would be how popcorn is a hybrid of two inbred corn kernels. Popcorn kernels are constantly having their genetic information researched and changed. When Native Americans would pop these kernels, the percentage of the kernels popping was very low. Now with new technology and insight into the genetic makeup of a popcorn kernel, we have created a kernel that has a 99% popping rate. Relationship of the questions to the Standards continued: Relationship of the questions to the Standards continued The questions about this topic also relate to Standard 1, Key Idea #1. This states that the purpose of scientific inquiry is to develop explanations of natural phenomena in a continuing, creative process. An example of how this can be demonstrated is how we discovered what actually takes place when a popcorn pops. We know that it is not an angry spirit living in the kernel like Native American legends used to suggest, but that there are three distinct parts of the corn kernel that help to create this phenomena of popping. Question #1What is the history of popcorn?: Question #1What is the history of popcorn? Popcorn has been around for centuries, for a number of different uses. Scientists guess that popcorn originated 8,000 years ago in Mexico. Archaeologists have found popcorn cobs that date back to as much as 5,600 years old in New Mexico. By the time Columbus arrived in the Americas, there were over 700 types of popcorn. Iroquois people were known to pop corn in clay pots, where others would just put a stick in the corn and hold it over the fire. The Incas would also head sand and place it in the clay pots where they would place the corn kernels. They would then cover the pot and the heat from the sand would pop the kernels. Popcorn was used for decoration, soup, and headdresses. In the 1700s the first puffed cereal was created when milk was poured over popped popcorn and covered with sugar. Popcorn was grown in families gardens and wasn’t seen as a legitimate cash croup until around 1890. Popcorn became very popular in the United States from the 1890s up until the Great Depression. Being that corn crops were being depleted, popcorn became an affordable luxury because people were only charged 5-10 cents a bag. In 1925 vendors moved their popcorn stands inside movie theaters where the popcorn often made more money than the film playing. During World War II sugar was sent oversees to help troops, which made the sale of popcorn soar in the United States. Question #2How is a popcorn kernel created?: Question #2How is a popcorn kernel created? It is important to know that there are many different types of corn. There can be field corn, flour corn, sweet corn, and flint corn to name a few. The scientific name for popcorn is Zea Mays Everta, and this is the only type of corn that will pop. A popcorn seed has three main components to it’s make up. The first component is known as the “endosperm” which is made of soft and hard starch granules. This helps to give energy to the living part of the kernel which is the second main component of the kernel and is referred to as a “germ”. The third component is the “pericarp” or the outside of the kernel which is made of cellulose. Plant breeders use inbreeding to make popcorn seeds. It takes years and years of inbreeding until there are select desirable traits for the popcorn seeds. When this occurs, two inbreds are crossed together which produce a hybrid. This hybrid is then planted as a popcorn seed. Much of the popcorn is grown here in the United States in states such as Iowa, Kansas, and Kentucky. Every spring popcorn seed are placed 1 ½ inches deep and are six inches apart. The seed will germinate in about seven days and will appear from the soil at around ten days. A popcorn plant will grow to about eight feet and contain long, green leaves. The plant will produce ears of corn and will catch pollen that allow the ears to produce kernels. The growing process will not cease until the entire plant is brown and dry. Where there is a black layer on the kernel, and it is hard, this means the kernel has reached it’s full maturity. This shows that the kernel does not require nourishment from the plant. A kernel needs to be harvested when it has a moisture content of 16- 20% because this moisture is what causes the kernel to pop. The ears will be collected and taken to steel cribs that have open slots to maximize drying. Ears are normally stored for eight to twelve months to ensure there has been enough drying time. The optimum moisture level of a popcorn kernel is 14%. Once the kernel is cleaned and polished, it is ready for packing. How does popcorn pop?: How does popcorn pop? The most important necessity for popcorn to pop is heat. A kernel needs to have an internal temperature of 400-460 degrees Fahreneheit. The endosperm (or starch) contains moisture which is turned to steam. The pericarp (or outer shell) is hard which causes the steam to build up. The starch will become like a gelatin substance and the moisture vaporizes until there is 135 pounds per square inch. Once the outside breaks, the starch puffs out. In reality the kernel is turning itself inside out and the puffy part is the endosperm and the dark middle is the pericarp. There are many ways to pop popcorn. As discussed in an earlier slide, it used to be popped by placcing kernels on hot sand in a clay pot and covering them up. It was thought that Native Americans might even spear a cob with a stick and put it in the fire until it started to pop. Many Native Americans described this occurrence through the use of spirits. They would claim how a spirit lived in the kernel and because their house was heated, they became very angry. The hotter they were the angrier they became until they burst out as a puff of steam. In 1893 the first mobile popcorn machine was created by Charles Cretors. Through the use of hybrid kernels there is not at least a 99% chance that all the kernels will pop when someone is making popcorn. An “Old Maid” is a term for kernels that do not pop and are left at the bottom of the kettle. These can be saved by putting them in a jar, adding some water, and let sit for a few days until all the water has been absorbed. A popped kernel of corn is known as a “flake”. There are two common types of flakes. The first is known as the “butterfly flake” which has an irregular shape and many protruding edges that resemble wings. This is often classified has having more tenderness and less noticeable hulls which make them less crunch. The second type is the “mushroom flakes” which are ball-shaped and have few wings. These are less fragile than the butterfly flakes and are often used to make caramel corn. Works Cited: Works Cited 1. Jolly Time Popcorn. www.jollytime.com. 2. Popcorn Board (2007). www.popcorn.org. Chicago, IL. 3. Stein, S. www.tooter4kids.com. 4. Weaver Popcorn Company (2004). www.popweaver.com. Indianapolis, Indiana. 5. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc (2007). Popcorn. www.wikipedia.org.