Popcorn is a highly underrated snack. Peruse any grocery store aisle and you’ll find numerous bags of chips (potato, pita, tortilla) or other salty nibbles (pretzels, puffs, crackers), but only a few varieties of popped corn, many of them artificially flavored to make them more appealing or shelf stable. When recently preparing for a popcorn flavoring lesson, I was surprised to find just three brands of corn seeds for popping.
With varieties like “Cherokee Long Ear” and “Strawberry,” I prefer to grow my own popcorn seed in the school garden. Not only are these varieties more interesting, but they also offer the opportunity to teach about the geography and origin of corn, which is thought to have originated in Mexico 9,000 years ago.
Now corn is grown throughout the world, prepared and seasoned with local recipes and ingredients. Corn on the cob, for example, is enjoyed on nearly every continent, served with culturally meaningful condiments.
In the Common Core Cooking lesson, “Know Your Roots,” kids create six sweet and savory spices to flavor freshly popped corn. Not only does this lesson engage the senses, encourage teamwork, and reinforce measurement skills, it opens the conversation about snacks that are better for our health.
For example, popcorn is lower in calories and higher in fiber than corn tortilla chips, namely because it made of whole, not processed, grain. It is lower in sodium and saturated fat than potato chips or french fries. Naturally flavored popcorn also tastes better! To make corn pop with flavor, try one (or all!) of the six sweet or savory spice mix recipes below.