There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that popcorn is one of the most popular types of food in the world. It is actually the most consumed snack in the entire world, thanks in large part to its association with movies. That said, as popular as popcorn has been in the past century, it has always been a widely consumed food throughout history. So, when was popcorn invented?
The oldest evidence suggests that the ancient people who lived in New Mexico were making popcorn as long as 5,600 years ago. In 1885, the popcorn machine was invented by Charles Cretors. That same year he took his invention to the World’s Fair and this started America’s passion for popcorn.
As you can see, popcorn has been around for longer than we have a historical record. Even our ancient ancestors who lived thousands of years ago were already making and eating popcorn. That said, there are plenty of things that we should cover when it comes to the history of popcorn, as it is one of the most widely consumed foods throughout the history of the world.
When Was Popcorn Invented/Discovered?
When we eat in a movie theater, the traditional food that we carry into the cinema is popcorn. Even when we are not inside the cinema and watch from the comfort of our own homes, we often microwave a bag of popcorn as our movie time snack.
Whenever we want a quick snack to eat while watching our favorite sports or TV shows, popcorn has always been our favorite choice. Plainly speaking, popcorn is and has always been one of the most widely consumed food items throughout history.
But, speaking of history, not a lot of people know much more about popcorn or how long ago it dates back. There are some who believe that popcorn is actually a modern type of snack because we associate it with microwavable popcorn or movie theaters.
However, popcorn has been around for such a long time that no one actually knows when it was invented or discovered.
Popcorn is not your usual type of corn but a special kind of corn that has enough water in it to pop whenever the water inside the individual kernels is heated up, due to the pressure building inside.
That said, because this kind of crop has been around for as long as anyone can remember and because it is certainly not a farfetched thought that ancient people exposed popcorn to heat, it can be said that popcorn is a type of food that has been around for thousands of years already.
In fact, it was in 1948 that a shocking discovery about popcorn was made in a bat cave in New Mexico. Those who collected samples from the cave found small heads of corn and individual popped kernels.
When the kernels underwent carbon dating, it was discovered that they are about 5,600 years old. Those kernels are the oldest pieces of evidence to suggest that popcorn has been around for at least 5,000 years.
From there, it is plain to see that popcorn has been around for as long as human civilization has existed, and probably even much longer, given that there were likely older pieces of evidence that could not stand the test of time and were not as well-preserved as those found in the cave in New Mexico.
The point of the matter is that popcorn has always been consumed by humans as a part of our normal diet.
It is not a modern food invention that only became popular when modern machines were invented and movie theaters entered the scenes. Some people would certainly be surprised to hear that popcorn could be as old as human civilization itself.
All that said, there is no exact timetable for how long popcorn has been around in the world today because the bat cave kernels only suggest the minimum amount of time that people have been eating or consuming popcorn.
It could have been popped for the first time tens of thousands of years ago, for all we know. But the fact of the matter remains that no one knows when popcorn was discovered or who first discovered it.
It is a different story when we now talk more about the modern version of popcorn.
When Was Popcorn Brought To The USA?
While we did say that we cannot put an exact timetable as to how long popcorn has been around, it’s a different story when we talk about how long it has been available in the United States. There are some pieces of evidence that tell us how long Americans have been consuming popcorn.
The ancient Aztecs that lived in the Americas thousands of years ago have always used popcorn as a staple of their diet because of how readily available corn was as an easy-to-grow grain on the American continent. In fact, the very first explorers from Europe noticed that the ancient native Americans were regularly making popcorn.
This opened up the introduction of popcorn to Europe as the explorers brought the discovery back to their home countries.
Based on these facts, we can be sure that popcorn has been around in the Americas for quite some time, but it was only during the time of the migration of the European immigrants that popcorn became so widespread around the American continent.
As popular as popcorn was during that time, its popularity only boomed during the latter part of the 1800s when the process of making popcorn was modernized and it became cheap and easy to make.
When Did Popcorn Become Popular In The USA?
It was in 1885 when a certain Charles Cretors invented the very first commercial popcorn maker. The idea came about when Cretors, a local Chicago candy maker, was using a steam machine for all sorts of nuts.
He decided to apply the same technology to corn kernels and discovered that he could make popcorn in a quick and cheap manner. Hence, popcorn steadily grew as a staple food in the United States.
Since the invention of the popcorn machine in 1885, several more people adopted the same technology to make their own popcorn machines until it came to a point in the 1890s that popcorn vendors were quite common in fairs and theme parks.
Before we were consuming popcorn in movie theaters, people were already eating it as a quick snack while walking around local theme parks.
Popcorn grew more in popularity during the Great Depression of the 1920s because of how cheap it was. You could get popcorn for as little as 5 cents during a time when people were looking for a cheap and affordable way to eat.
Meanwhile, even though popcorn had already become a staple during the early days of the movie theater, which usually showed silent films, theater owners discouraged popcorn and even banned it due to how noisy of a snack it is. This is easy to understand because of the fact that theaters were only showing silent films back then.
Things changed in 1938 when theater owners discovered that they could make more money on popcorn than the actual movie tickets that they sold. Because of that, popcorn only grew to become more popular in movie theaters.
Following the rise of popcorn as a staple movie theater snack, it was also quite popular among households and soldiers alike during World War II because sugar was strictly rationed. Popcorn was a quick way for people to get their sweet fix.
As time went on and the first televisions were introduced into American households, popcorn saw a quick decline as people became more likely to stay at home watching shows on their televisions than to go to the movie theaters to watch films.
Because popcorn could only be made in a quick and efficient manner through popcorn machines at that time, there was no way for people to have their popcorn at home while they were watching their TVs.
When Was Microwave Popcorn Invented?
During the latter half of the 1900s, the microwave oven steadily became a popular way for people to quickly heat their food. The discovery came about during the 1940s when a scientist discovered that you could cook food using microwaves, which were mostly used for medical reasons at that time.
Since then, companies were regularly looking for ways to jump on the microwave oven bandwagon by coming up with different microwavable foods.
It was in 1981 when the first patent for the microwave popcorn bag was issued to General Mills. Since the introduction of microwavable popcorn, the popularity of popcorn reached an all-time high as people could buy microwavable popcorn bags in grocery stores and then microwave them at home whenever they want a quick snack.
Similar to how television shows and sports were growing in popularity at that time, popcorn gained steam as people could now easily eat their popcorn bags at home without having to go to the movie theater.
This was due in large part to the rise of the microwavable popcorn bag as most popcorn consumption in America today can actually be attributed to home consumption rather than movie theater consumption.
Which Countries Grow The Most Popcorn?
Since the introduction of microwavable popcorn, popcorn production all over the world has been increasing at an all-time high as more and more people consume popcorn at home.
This led to plenty of countries jumping on the corn bandwagon so that they could make money by growing popcorn and exporting it. In fact, corn is the world’s second-largest crop and is second only to sugarcane in that regard.
That said, here are the biggest producers of popcorn throughout the entire world:
- United States
As you can see, the United States is the world’s leader in corn production, primarily due to the fact that Americans are also the top consumers of popcorn. While China isn’t necessarily known for eating corn as a staple part of the Chinese diet, they make a lot of money from exporting popcorn throughout the entire world.
Which US States Grow Popcorn?
As mentioned, the US is the world’s leader in terms of popcorn production, but the US actually keeps most of its popcorn production centered only on a few states, such as Nebraska, Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio.
However, among the few states that produce popcorn, no other state comes close to Nebraska, which is the country’s top popcorn producer. Nebraska accounts for about 44% of the popcorn production in the entire United States of America. In 2012 alone it was able to account for 353.7 million pounds of shelled popcorn.
Which Countries Consume The Most Popcorn?
Consequently, because the US is the world’s leader in terms of popcorn production, it only follows that the Americans are also the top popcorn consumers throughout the world. Americans eat 17 billion quarts of popcorn on an annual basis.
Other countries that eat a lot of popcorn include Japan and China, the latter of which is due to their massive population. But not even China’s massive population can stand up to the much more massive appetite that Americans have for popcorn, as no other country comes close to America’s popcorn consumption.
Which US States Consume The Most Popcorn?
While there are no exact numbers concerning the states that consume the most popcorn, it can only be presumed that the most populous states such as New York and California top the list because of how many more people live in such states.
You could also factor in populous states such as Texas, Florida, and Illinois, the latter of which is not only known for popcorn consumption but also for popcorn production.
How Does Popcorn Get From The Field To The Market?
Popcorn is a special kind of maize or corn that is grown specifically to be popped. Popcorn is the only type of corn kernel that pops due to the moisture content inside each individual kernel. The moisture is what is responsible for popping the kernel open.
After the popcorn plants are harvested, they are fed to machines that are capable of removing the kernels from the cob. From there, they are kept in special containers that allow them to retain their moisture so that they can still pop after they have been packaged and shipped to different grocery stores.
The individual corn kernels then undergo special proprietary packaging methods depending on the company packaging them.
Some are packaged in microwavable bags, while others are glazed with different flavors so that the individual kernels are each laced with flavor the moment they pop. From there, they are shipped to the market in individual bags of popcorn kernels that can be microwaved.
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