ANGOLA, Ind. (AP) — When Carrie Vollmer-Sanders of Angola
saw green popcorn seeds in a gardening catalog a few years ago, she knew she had
to have some.
After all, both she and her farmer husband Ryan Sanders
graduated from Michigan State University. What could be a more appropriate snack
for Spartan sporting events than green popcorn mixed with white?
“If there’s such a thing as a popcorn snob, I’ve become
one,” she told The Journal Gazette.
Green popcorn? Yes, there is such a thing.
There’s also blue popcorn and red popcorn and sunburst
popcorn, which has yellow and red stripes on the outside. And while digesting
that kernel of information, here’s another: Hoosierdom is the second-largest
popcorn-producing state in the nation.
Yes, popcorn has deep roots hereabouts. Orville Redenbacher
was a Hoosier, after all. And isn’t Pop Weaver, based in Noblesville and with a
plant in Van Buren, the largest seller of popcorn worldwide?
There’s even a brand of gourmet popcorn named Popcorn,
Indiana — though that company happens to be based in Englewood, N.J.
A company spokeswoman explained that the brand is named for
an actual town in southern Indiana and has had former Indiana University
basketball star Isiah Thomas as not only a customer, but a major investor.
This year’s Indiana State Fair, which runs Aug. 2-18, has
christened its 2013 edition The Year of Popcorn in honor of the “agricultural
and economic importance” of the more than 220 million pounds of popcorn produced
That’s according to Andy Klotz, fair spokesman — and someone
who can provide enough facts about popcorn to make a full meal.
Did you know that popcorn actually is a separate variety of
corn from plain old field corn, the kind that goes into animal feed and ethanol,
and sweet corn, the kind folks hanker for at this time of year?
Did you know the variety used to make movie theater and
ballpark popcorn is different from that used for caramel corn?
The former is called snowflake popcorn because it pops
bigger and fluffier. Mushroom popcorn is used for caramel corn because it’s
denser and less likely to crumble.
There’s also another type of popcorn called ladyfinger
popcorn because it pops smaller and into slightly elongated, delicate shapes —
this according to Sharon Yoder, an owner of Yoder Popcorn outside Topeka, which
has been selling great quantities of the snack since the 1930s, when her
great-uncle started the business.
Right now, she said, the one fast-growing segment of the
popcorn market is in so-called designer popcorns, though some of the colorful
novelty permutations are older varieties having a resurgence among people whose
popcorn palates are becoming more refined.
Her company sources its popcorn within 100 miles of the
plant, though not all is grown in Indiana.
Flavored popcorn is another trend — more than a dozen salts
and sprinkles to top popcorn, from honey mustard to creamy dill, can be found at
Yoder’s website, www.yoderpopcorn.com.
A Columbia City business, Kernel Coladas Gourmet Popcorn,
sells flavored and coated popcorn and gift baskets. Another Indiana company, Not
Just Popcorn in Edinburgh, has chocolate and other flavors of coated popcorn and
scores of exotic flavors — green apple, Kahlua and cream, vanilla cola and
blueberry cheesecake, to name a few.
But Yoder remains a popcorn purist.
“I would go for the Tiny Tender White,” she said.
“I like the red for a change,” she added. “It has a bit of a
nutty taste. The blue is a little bit sweeter. We sell a lot of Tender Tiny
White. It has quite a small kernel and not as much hull, and people like that.”
Popcorn, Yoder said, is a bit trickier to grow than other
types of corn. The plants look different — not as tall or as robust — and the
kernels are much harder.
“Popcorn has to be harder, because that’s what holds the
moisture in,” she said.
Popcorn needs a 13 percent to 14 percent moisture content to
work, she said, because it’s the moisture inside the kernel that, when heated,
expands and bursts the hull, allowing gelatinous starch to be released and
One would think that with such a hard hull, raw popcorn
would be a pretty tough product, but also care has to be taken when popcorn is
harvested, Yoder said.
“If when harvesting, they nick it,” she said of a kernel,
“it won’t pop. It’ll make widows because it has dried out too much.
“You have to be careful how you store it. You can’t just
dump it in a bin — it’s more delicate to grow, and you have to put a little more
work into it.”
Vollmer-Sanders and her family found that out during their
four years of growing green popcorn.
The family’s two boys — Ethan, 7, and Isaac, 5 — have gotten
quite skilled at shelling the popcorn, she said.
“It’s something fun to do as a family,” she said.
So far, the family hasn’t grown green popcorn to sell
commercially — it’s been just for their own use or to give to relatives and
friends as gifts. Several friends with Trine University ties got pickings from
an experimental batch of blue popcorn the family grew in honor of that school’s
colors, Vollmer-Sanders said.
She said green popcorn is mostly just a novelty. But she
added that Notre Dame or Green Bay Packers fans might like it. And she wonders
whether Baltimore Ravens or Minnesota Vikings fans might not be far behind.
By accident, she said, the family discovered that green
popcorn kernels will turn purple if exposed to sunlight.
“They taste just fine, but they’re purple,” she said. “It’s
just a completely new color.”
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