Monday, October 24, 2022

History of popcorn grain

Corn began as a wild grass called teosinte in southwestern Mexico and was probably cultivated as a domesticated crop around 9,000 years ago.

Scholars agree that popcorn originated in the Americas. Popcorn grains estimated to be more than 1,000 years old were found on the east coast of Peru. A 1,000-year-old popped kernel was found in a dry cave inhabited by predecessors of the Pueblo Indians in Southwestern Utah.

In 1948, small heads of the zea mays everta were discovered by Herbert Dick and Earle Smith in a dry cave known as the “bat cave.” These kernels have since been carbon dated and shown to be approximately 5,600 years old. Strains of corn (taxonomized as Zea mays) are cultivated specifically as popping corns. The Zea mays variety everta, a special kind of flint corn, is the most common of these.

Around the year 1612, early French explorers through the Great Lakes region noted that the Iroquois popped popcorn with heated sand in a pottery vessel and used it to make popcorn soup, among other things.

In the mid-1800s, the steel plow—which could cut through tough vegetation—transformed Midwestern agriculture. In Nebraska, Iowa, and Indiana, corn—especially the poppable variety—became such an important cash crop that it was dubbed “prairie gold.”

In 1875, a Kentucky resident named Frederick J. Myers patented a corn-popping device that added a stay-cool handle. Charles Cretor of Chicago is often credited as the inventor of modern popcorn, thanks to his invention of the mobile popcorn cart in 1885. Since the machine was mobile, the invention also increased the amount of people who had access to popcorn and thus the popularity of the snack in America.

Popcorn’s modern era as a favorite American snack was launched in 1893 at the New York World’s Fair. Street vendors, by the 1920s, with their steam or gas-powered poppers, were a common sight at fairs, parks and expositions.

The first hybrid popcorn for commercial production, Minhybrid 250, was released in 1934 by the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station. It only grew well along the northern edge of the U.S. corn belt, but was quickly followed by hybrids adapted to the central region of the corn belt.

By the 1940s, more widely adapted hybrids had been developed by Indiana and Kansas Agricultural Experiment Stations in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Plant Industry. Modern plant breeders, concentrated in the heart of the U.S. Corn Belt, continue their quest to develop improved popcorn hybrids.

When popcorn was first sold inside movie theaters, almost 100 years ago, it actually helped buoy the business, which was flailing at the time as the country entered the Great Depression. A successful popcorn advertising partnership with Coca-Cola and Morton Salt, along with advertisements of individual popcorn companies made the early 1950s the largest home-consumption growth period for the popcorn industry.
History of popcorn grain