Jan. 19 is National Popcorn Day, and this snack is worth celebrating for many reasons, including its history in the state of Indiana.  In 2021, Senate Bill 97 was signed by Governor Eric Holcomb, declaring popcorn grown in Indiana as our official state snack. And there is plenty of popcorn here! Hoosiers produce nearly 500 million pounds of popcorn each year, and 94,000 acres of popcorn were grown in Indiana in 2020.

Weaver Popcorn is based in Van Buren, and is one of the largest popcorn growers in the world. Weaver is home to PopWeave and Trail's End, which produces the beloved Boy Scout popcorn. The company says more than 70% of those sales go to the Boy Scouts of America. Consumers can also donate popcorn to the U.S. military by making a cash contribution. Trail's End sends popcorn to the armed services stationed both domestic and international, including combat areas. However, when it comes to name recognition in the world of popcorn, it's hard to overlook Redenbacher. Orville Redenbacher grew up in Clay County, in the town of Brazil, Indiana.  He earned a degree in agriculture from Purdue and worked as a teacher and county extension agent before being hired as manager of Princeton Farms in January 1940. At that time, it was the state's largest farm, boasting 12,000 acres of crops and cattle, and became where Redenbacher truly got into the popcorn game. Princeton Farms, partly owned by the Hulman family that has long run Indianapolis Motor Speedway, soon became the nation's largest popcorn grower and seller.

Popcorn is a type of maize (or corn), a member of the grass family, and is scientifically known as Zea mays everta. It is different from other types of corn thanks to its thicker pericarp (or hull). This hull allows pressure from heated water to build before bursting open. Experts say that 400°F is the ideal temperature for popping popcorn, perfectly turning the water inside the kernel to expanding steam. The starch inside the kernel then turns into a gelatin. When the hull bursts open, the liquified starch spills out and instantly cools, giving popcorn its familiar shape. If it pops in a round shape it is called mushroom popcorn, while the more unpredictable shapes are called butterfly popcorn. The unpopped popcorn kernels at the bottom of the bag are called spinsters, or old maids.

If you'd like to celebrate our state's favorite snack this week, don't feel like it needs to be boring. You can always jazz up a bowl of popcorn by adding flavorings, oils, candies, spices. To make your popcorn more exciting: Drizzle with melted chocolate and peanut butter or pour on some caramel and toss with roasted peanuts. For savory options, spice up your bowl with a dusting of parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes, taco seasoning, or ranch dressing seasoning. Give it a toss and enjoy!