The Story of Popcorn

Covered Bridge Gardens is known for the best Ohio tasting popcorn around. We have a growing following both in the United States and over seas.We currently have harvested our yellow, red, white and blue colors.

You can order our popcorn through our on-line store or contact us directly for special orders. The 2013 harvest was a sucess and is drying in the cribs. Sales of the on-the-ear popcorn wil be ready in early Spring 2014.

We will make special color mixes for fun raisers and events. Is your school colors red and white?Or we will put your label on our packages. Contact us for specific details.

We also welcome retail sales. We currently have our popcorn located at the:

Lift Bridge Landing, Bridge Street, Ashtabula, Ohio

The Market at the Fig, Ohio City, Cleveland, Ohio

Shaker Square Farmers Market with the Millgate Farm stand Sat. 9-noon, Jan-April


Just as Covered Bridge Gardens has a unique history, so too does popcorn, one of the many products the northeast Ohio business offers. The Prochko family farm where Covered Bridge Gardens operates, dates back to 1936, when Michael and Frances Prochko began farming there. The history of popcorn, however, goes back a bit further.

The oldest known corn pollen, scarcely distinguishable from modern corn pollen, is evidenced in an 80,000-year-old fossil found 200 feet below Mexico City. Even though there are biblical accounts of corn stored in the pyramids of Egypt, the grain referred to there is more probably barley. The word for corn has changed over the centuries, but originally referred to the most-used grain in a specific place. In England, "corn" was wheat and in Scotland and Ireland, the word actually referred to oats. Maize was the common American corn and keeps that name to this day.

It is believed that the first use of wild and early-cultivated corn was for popping. A Zapotec funeral urn found in Mexico depicts a maize god with symbols representing primitive popcorn in his headdress, dating from about 300 A.D. Ancient popcorn poppers, shallow vessels with a hole on top and a single decorated handle, have been found on the north coast of Peru and also date to about 300 A.D.

When Columbus first arrived in the West Indies, the natives tried to sell popcorn to his crew. There is no truth to the rumor that they were representatives of Covered Bridge Gardens, however.

Popcorn was an important food for the Aztec Indians, who also used it as decoration for ceremonial headdresses, necklaces, and ornaments on statues of their gods.

In the Great Lakes region of 1612, the Iroquois used pottery and heated sand to pop corn. History indicates that French explorers enjoyed a dinner prepared by the Iroquois that included popcorn soup and popcorn beer. We here at Covered Bridge Gardens are still looking for that recipe.

Colonial housewives served popcorn with sugar and cream for breakfast, the first "puffed" breakfast cereal eaten by Europeans. We think it tastes better with butter and salt.

From the 1890s until the Great Depression, street vendors used to follow crowds around, pushing steam or gas-powered poppers through fairs, parks, and expositions. During the Depression, popcorn sold at 5 or 10 cents a bag, was one of the few luxuries down-and-out families could afford. It's still an economical snack and several varieties are offered at Covered Bridge Gardens.

During World War II, sugar was sent overseas for U.S. troops, leaving little in the United States to use for candy. As a result, Americans ate three times as much popcorn. The very first use for the early microwave oven was for popping corn. Popcorn consumption during the 1950s slumped when television became more popular and attendance at movie theaters dropped.

Today Americans consume about 17.3 billion quarts of popped corn each year. The average American eats about 54 quarts.

Interesting facts about popcorn:

Why Popcorn Pops

Each kernel of popcorn contains a certain amount of moisture and oil. Unlike most other grains, the outer hull of the popcorn kernel is both strong and impervious to moisture, and the starch inside consists almost entirely of a hard, dense type.

As the oil and the water are heated past the boiling point, they turn the moisture in the kernel into a superheated pressurized steam. Under these conditions, the starch inside the kernel gelatinizes, softening and becoming pliable. The pressure continues to increase until the breaking point of the hull is reached: a pressure of about 135 psi and a temperature of 180 °C (356 °F). The hull ruptures rapidly, causing a sudden drop in pressure inside the kernel and a corresponding rapid expansion of the steam, which in turn expands the starch and proteins into airy foam. As the foam rapidly cools, the starch and protein form the familiar crispy puff.

Expansion and Yield

Popping results are sensitive to the rate at which the kernels are heated. If heated too quickly, the steam in the outer layers of the kernel can reach high pressures and rupture the hull before the starch in the center of the kernel can fully gelatinize, leading to partially popped kernels with hard centers. Heating too slowly leads to entirely unpopped kernels. The tip of the kernel, where it attached to the cob, is not entirely moisture-proof, and when heated slowly, the steam can leak out of the tip fast enough to keep the pressure from rising sufficiently to break the hull and cause the pop.

Popcorn will pop when freshly harvested, but not well. Its high moisture content leads to poor expansion and chewy pieces of popcorn. Kernels with high moisture content are also susceptible to mold when stored. For these reasons, popcorn growers dry the kernels until they reach the moisture level at which they expand the most. This differs by variety and conditions, but is generally in the range of 14-15% moisture by weight. If the kernels are over-dried, the expansion rate will suffer and the percentage of kernels that pop at all will decline.

Two explanations exist for kernels which do not pop at proper temperatures, known in the popcorn industry as "old maids". The first is that unpopped kernels do not have enough moisture to create enough steam for an explosion. The second explanation, according to research led by Dr. Bruce Hamaker of Purdue University, is that the unpopped kernel may have a leaky hull.

The shape of the kernels, the color of the kernels, or the shape of the popped corn differs widely according to popcorn varieties. While the kernels may come in a variety of colors, the popped corn is always white as it is only the hull (or pericarp) that is colored. "Rice" type popcorns have a long kernel pointed at both ends; "pearl" type kernels are rounded at the top. Historically, pearl popcorns were usually yellow and rice popcorns usually white. Today both shapes are available in both colors, as well as others, including red and blue.

In popcorn jargon, a popped kernel of corn is known as a "flake". Two shapes of flakes are commercially important. "Butterfly" flakes are irregular in shape and have a number of protruding "wings". "Mushroom" flakes are largely ball-shaped, with few wings. Butterfly flakes are regarded as having better feel in the mouth, with greater tenderness and less noticeable hulls. Mushroom flakes are less fragile than butterfly flakes and are therefore often used for packaged popcorn or caramel corn. The kernels from a single cob of popcorn may form both butterfly and mushroom flakes. Growing conditions and popping environment can also affect the butterfly-to-mushroom ratio.

Healthy Snack

Air-popped popcorn is naturally high in fiber, low in calories and fat, contains no sodium, and is sugar free. This can make it an attractive snack to people with dietary restrictions on the intake of calories, fat, and/or sodium. For the sake of flavor, however, large amounts of fat, sugar, and sodium are often added to prepared popcorn, which can quickly convert it to a very poor choice for those on restricted diets.

Health Risks

Popcorn is included on the list of foods that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not serving to children under four, because of the risk of choking. Special "hulless" popcorn has been developed that offers an alternative for small children and for people with braces or other dental problems that may otherwise need to avoid popcorn.

Other Uses

Scent: Popcorn smell has an unusually attractive quality, for human beings. This is largely because it contains high levels of the chemicals 6-Acetyl-2, 3, 4, 5-tetrahydropyridine and 2-Acetyl-1-pyrroline, very powerful aroma compounds that are used by food and other industries to make products that either smell like popcorn (or bread, or other foods containing the compound in nature), or for other purposes.

Decoration: Popcorn, threaded onto a string, is used as a wall or Christmas tree decoration in some parts of North America.

 

More Fun Facts About Popcorn

  • Jan 19 is national popcorn day

  • How high can popcorn kernels pop? Up to 3 feet in the air.

  • How many pounds of popcorn Americans consume in a year? 1,124,600,000 or 1.12 billion pounds.

  • According to the National Popcorn Board, Americans consume 54 quarts of popcorn per man, woman and child each year. Approximately 70 percent of that is consumed inside the home and the peak period for popcorn sales for home consumption is the fall.

  • Percentage of popcorn purchases at retail stores in both raw and popped form and eaten at home: 70 percent.

  • Percentage of popcorn bought and eaten at theaters, ballparks and other recreational centers: 30 percent.

  • Of the five types of corn -- sweet corn, dent corn, flint corn, pod corn and popcorn -- only popcorn pops.

  • It was the experimentation of popping popcorn with microwaves in 1945 that led to the creation of the microwave oven.

  • Ration of yellow to white popcorn kernels sold in bags: 9 to 1.

  • Most popcorn comes in two basic shapes when it's popped: snowflake and mushroom. Snowflake is used in movie theaters and ballparks because it looks and pops bigger. Mushroom is used for candy confections because it doesn't crumble.

  • The oldest corn: popcorn, which evolved from a wild grass that grew thousands of years ago.

  • Most of the world's popcorn is grown in these states: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, and Ohio.

  • Almost all the popcorn consumed throughout the world is grown in the United States.

  • Ideal moisture content of popcorn: 13.5 percent. To achieve the best popability, the moisture content of popcorn should be from 13 percent to 14.5 percent.

  • How much popcorn expands over its original kernel size: from 40 to 42 times; some hybrids expand over 45 times.

  • Percentage of popped kernels that good popcorn should produce: at least 98%.

  • One gram of popcorn kernels yields: 43 to 44 cubic centimeters of popped corn - about 22% more than in the mid-1950s.

  • Since 1936, popcorn yield has almost doubled.

  • The first cookbook to mention popcorn was in 1846.

  • October is National Popcorn Month

  • An old 19th century method of cooking popcorn: Pour kernels of corn into a kettle full of lard. When the corn popped after heating it was skimmed off the top as it surfaced!

Novelty: The world's largest popcorn ball was unveiled in October 2006 in Lake Forest, Illinois. It weighed 3,415 pounds (1550 kilograms), measured 8 feet (2.4 m) in diameter, and had a circumference of 24.6 feet (8 m). There are no plans at Covered Bridge Gardens to beat this record.

 

Sources:

Website for the 1895 Rosson House, Phoenix, Arizona

Website for the Popcorn Company

And Wikipedia

 

 


 

Photos from our gallery

Sunset
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June Blosso...
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