Today I had something happen to me that has never happened in my entire microwave popcorn experiences. Most days, as a snack, I pop a bag of popcorn and eat the entire bag. Today I placed my normal bag of popcorn in the microwave to be popped. I sat down at my desk to enjoy it and before I knew it the entire bag was gone. As I looked at the bottom of the bag, I realized something strange had ocurred and possibly the only time in history this has ever happened. There was not ONE kernal left unpopped. I was totally shocked by this that I had to announce it to the entire staff, at which time, if they had any doubts before, they knew I was completely insane.
I looked into that bag with such remorse because as much as I love eating every single popped corn, I did look forward to those half popped kernals that we all break our teeth on.
Once I got over my desolation, I decided a little research was in order and I have now a complete knowledge of why this happened: I found that my bag of popcorn apparently did not have any leaky hulls:
INDIANAPOLIS -- Eat your way to the bottom of almost any bag of popcorn and there they are: the rock-hard, jaw-rattling unpopped kernels known as old maids.
The nuisance kernels have kept many a dentist busy, but their days could be numbered: Scientists say they now know why some popcorn kernels resist popping.
Popcorn kernels must have a precise moisture level in their starchy center -- about 15 percent -- to explode. But Purdue University researchers found the key to a kernel's explosive success lies in the composition of its hull.
Unpopped kernels, it turns out, have leaky hulls that prevent the moisture pressure buildup needed for them to pop and lack the optimal hull structure that allows most kernels to explode.
"They're sort of like little pressure vessels that explode when the pressure reaches a certain point," said Bruce Hamaker, a Purdue professor of food chemistry. "But if too much moisture escapes, it loses its ability to pop and just sits there."
'One of life's annoyances'
The findings may help popcorn breeders select the best varieties - - or create new ones -- with superior hulls that yield few unpopped kernels. But for now, there's no way to screen out potential old maids.
Hamaker and his associates compared the microwave popping performance of 14 Indiana-grown popcorn varieties and examined the hulls of both the popped kernels and the duds.
In the varieties popped, the percentage of unpopped kernels ranged from 4 percent in premium brands to 47 percent in the cheaper ones.
The findings could be good news for people who savor the snack and those who grow the 17 billion quarts of popcorn sold each year in the United States.
Wendy Boersema Rappel, a spokeswoman for the Chicago-based Popcorn Board, said processors are always looking for ways to improve their product, including reducing the number of old maids.
"It's one of life's annoyances -- it's not rocking anyone's world, but our members always like to improve their product," Rappel said. AP
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