You may think all corn is the same, but it’s not. There are four basic types of corn and they all have distinguishing traits and uses.
You can’t pop sweet corn and you wouldn’t want to eat boiled field corn. The average person may not be able to tell the difference between the various types of corn by looking at them growing in the field, but a grower certainly can.
Dent corn, also called field corn, is the most widely grown corn in the U.S. It is used primarily for livestock feed, but it is also used in some food products. It contains a mix of hard and soft starches that become indented once the corn is dried, thus the name “dent” corn.
Flint corn, also known as Indian corn, is similar to dent corn. It has a hard outer shell and is distinguished by a wide range of colors. It is grown mostly in Central and South America and used primarily for decoration in North America around harvest time.
Popcorn is a type of flint corn but has its own size, shape, starch level and moisture content. It has a hard exterior shell and a soft starchy center. When heated, the natural moisture inside the kernel turns to steam and builds up enough pressure that it eventually explodes. Other types of dried corn may burst open slightly when heated, but not like popcorn. Popcorn is unique in its taste and popability.
Sweet corn, or “corn on the cob,” is almost all soft starch and will never pop. It contains more sugar than other types of corn. Unlike other corns that are picked when the kernels are dry and mature, sweet corn is picked and eaten while the ears are in the immature milk stage and the kernels are tender.
National Popcorn Poppin’ Month
Popcorn lovers rejoice: October is National Popcorn Poppin’ Month, a seasonal celebration of one of America’s oldest and most beloved snack foods. As farmers head into the fields to harvest crops, families and friends gather to honor this ever-popular treat. Whether stovetop, microwave or ready-to-eat, we consume 13 billion quarts each year of this wholesome, whole grain.
Having been long regarded as a sign of good times, popcorn has found a new appreciation by today’s lean and green consumer. Celebrated for its seed-to-snack simplicity, popcorn is also non-GMO, vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free and naturally low in fat and calories, which makes it an easy fit for the dietary conscious. And it’s budget-friendly. A quart of popped popcorn costs as little as 15 cents.
Add in popcorn’s irresistible smell, taste, and versatility and it’s easy to understand its popularity. With so many different ways to eat it—plain, buttery, or loaded with goodies—popcorn always fits the mood or occasion.
Pop up a bowl and join the Popcorn Poppin’ Month celebration. For a special seasonal snack, try the following recipe.
Harvest Munch (Monster Munch)
8 cups air-popped or stove-top popcorn
4 cups mini pretzel twists
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 tbsp corn syrup
1 cup marshmallows
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups mini chocolate peanut butter cups
1 cup candy corn
1. Toss popcorn with pretzel sticks; spread out on large parchment paper–lined baking sheet; set aside.
2. In saucepan set over medium heat, combine butter, brown sugar and corn syrup; cook, swirling pan, for 3 to 5 minutes or until brown sugar dissolves and mixture is bubbling.
3. Stir in marshmallows and salt; cook for 30 to 60 seconds or until marshmallows are melted. Pour evenly over popcorn mixture. Sprinkle with mini chocolate peanut butter cups and candy corn. Let cool completely and break into clusters.
Tip: Add edible googly eyes – and call it Monster Munch!
For more popcorn facts and recipes, go to www.popcorn.org.