What food has been around for 2,000 years, was served to explorers Columbus and Cortez, and is still eaten in its original form today?
Popcorn! As January 19 is National Popcorn Day, it’s a good time to share some trivia about one of America’s favorite snacks.
Indian tribes of North and South America were the first to discover and cultivate popcorn. Imagine the fear and surprise on the face of the first person who accidentally dropped a couple of kernels on the fire!
The Indians found innovative uses for preparing the strange maize. French explorers in the Great Lakes region saw the Iroquois pop it in pottery containers surrounded by hot sand – the first hot-air corn poppers.
By the time the Pilgrims arrived in the New World, Indians grew more than 700 varieties of popcorn. It even played an important part in the first Thanksgiving feast at Plymouth, Massachusetts. In an effort to assure the newcomers of their welcome, Quadequina, brother of the Iroquois chief, Massasoit, brought popped corn as a gift wrapped in a deerskin bag.
A bag of popcorn in hand during peace negotiations was a welcome sign. It meant the bearer offered it with hopes of goodwill between him and the receiver. Popcorn had its ornamental aspects for the Indians as well. Strung together in patterns, the various colored varieties, including red, white and black, made attractive necklaces, headdresses and corsages.
I had never seen colored popcorn until I visited the Amish Country Popcorn factory in Berne recently. Tucked into a corner of farmland east of Berne, the factory is part of a 2,000-acre farm that produces a variety of colored popcorn – red, white, blue, yellow, purple and rainbow.
As it pops, the colors turn white but the tastes can vary. Some varieties pop larger kernels (blue, purple), while the red is hull-less.
The Amish Country Popcorn factory was founded and is owned and operated by Brian Lehman of Berne. He began growing popcorn as a 6-year-old on his dad’s farm and continues the tradition today.
He sells the popcorn to stores in dozens of states, including Big R and Rural King. His popcorn may even be featured on QVC and in Hallmark stores in the future! Go to the factory’s website here to see a complete listing of stores that sell their products.
Of course, popcorn is gluten-free which makes the popcorn flour a sought-after product by those who choose to avoid gluten.
A little more history on popcorn:
Settlers invented ways to add popcorn to their food supply. When colonial women poured cream and sugar over popcorn, they created the first puffed breakfast cereal.
During harvest, frontiersmen assembled at neighbor homes for husking bees. They turned the task of removing the outer shell from the corn to store it for winter into fun. A red ear found among the yellow was a rare treat. The owner could stop husking and kiss the person of his or her choosing. Some huskers smuggled in red ears, pretending to find them in the pile and practice smooching!
According to Popcorn.org, Americans consume 51 quarts per person every year. Challenge yourself to raise your personal quota by ordering some Amish Country Popcorn and enjoy!
I’ll leave you with a ‘corn-y’ joke:
Q: What did the baby corn say to the Mama corn?
A: Where’s my Pop corn?
If that doesn’t get you in the mood for popcorn, I don’t know what will!
Amish Country Popcorn
5433 S 150 E
Berne IN 46711