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Get Poppin’

Oct 05, 2014 11:22AM ● Published by Jennifer Neys

by Julie Ross

Perhaps you were not aware that if you covered the state of Oregon with a layer of popcorn kernels and then popped them, it would cover the entire United States. I have not heard of any plans in the works to perform an actual trial to prove this, however, it seems plausible based on the finding that, on average, popped popcorn takes up 37 times more room than un-popped popcorn.

Welcome to October, the official “Popcorn Poppin’ Month,” when all Americans, including Californians (who have been known to scoff at Midwestern antics), are invited to celebrate the popcorn harvest.

According to the Popcorn Board (, a popcorn kernel is tough enough to withstand the precise amount of pressure needed for the water inside to heat, expand and gelatinize the starch. When the hull bursts open, the gelatinized starch spills out and promptly cools into the familiar popped shape. Americans evidently love gelatinized starch, consuming around 16 billion quarts of this whole grain annually. Yes, popcorn is a whole grain, consisting of germ, endosperm and pericarp, the part we call the hull. Air-popped popcorn has only 31 calories a cup; oil-popped about 55 calories per cup.

Popcorn is not only a low-calorie, whole grain snack, but it is also fun; it can pop up to three feet in the air. (Not that I recommend trying this. Really.)

When I was growing up, popcorn balls were a Halloween staple. Neighbors passed out homemade treats to trick-or-treaters back then, and popcorn balls were the hands-down favorite. The ones we ate were about the size of a tennis ball. The fine people of Sac City, Iowa, were evidently not satisfied with such modestly proportioned treats. In 2009, Sac City residents put together the world’s largest popcorn ball. It weighed 5,000 pounds, stood over eight feet tall, and was almost 29 feet around. Now that’s some impressive poppin’!

You can find several excellent popcorn recipes with photos on the website, courtesy of the Popcorn Board, including a recipe for Happy Halloween Mini-Popcorn Balls. You can add orange food coloring to make them extra Halloween-y if you like. If popcorn balls aren’t your thing, try the Spicy Cajun Popcorn & Nuts for a savory snack, or Popcorn S’mores to satisfy a sweet tooth.

I personally don’t think the popcorn-based Green Halloween Zombies confection (with gumball eyes and candy corn teeth) look particularly appetizing, but they probably would be a Halloween party hit.

Get poppin’ and have a happy and safe Halloween!

Thanks to everyone who submitted fortunes for the Fortune Cookie Challenge. The deadline for entries closes at midnight on Wednesday, October 1. The winner will be announced in next month’s issue. You can reach Julie at





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