Do you know where your food comes from? During the summer months, you may get to meet the growers of produce if you visit one of the many farmers market, but how about now?
That is one of the primary focus for March 20, National Ag Day. National Ag Day falls during National Ag Week, March 18-24. The Agricultural Council of American states that March 20 is a day to recognize and celebrate the abundance provided by agriculture. Every year, producers, agricultural associations, corporations, universities, government agencies and countless others across America join together to recognize the contributions of agriculture.
Agriculture is a part of all of us. Without food, we would not survive. It is a challenge to understand the complex international system; however, it important to learn about how our food is produced. The council also encourages us to value the essential role agriculture plays in maintaining a strong economy and appreciate the role agriculture acts in providing safe, abundant and affordable products.
To get you started, here are some interesting facts about one of our favorite snacks, popcorn. According to Ag in the Classroom, a national school curriculum, Americans today consume 13 billion quarts of popcorn each year, more than any country in the world. The curriculum goes on to tell us how the seed develops and pops.
Popcorn seeds are planted in the spring and take 7-10 days to germinate. The plant can grow to about 8 feet high and produce ears of corn covered in a green husk. Popcorn plants are wind pollinated. The pollen is located in the tassels at the top of the plant. The ears form silks that catch the pollen as the wind blows. The pollen travels down a small tube in each silk and fertilizes the ovule at the base. After successful fertilization, a kernel develops and the silk detaches.
Popcorn is a grain composed of three parts — the pericarp (hull), germ and endosperm. Each part plays a role in the kernel popping. When the kernel is heated, the moisture in the endosperm begins to boil and turns to steam. Because the pericarp is hard, pressure builds up inside the kernel. The starch gelatinizes and the moisture vaporizes until the pressure inside the kernel reaches 135 pounds per square inch. At this point, the kernel bursts open and the starch solidifies to form the white, puffy part of popped popcorn. So the next time you enjoy a whole grain snack of popcorn, ask yourself the question, what causes the kernel to pop?
Enjoy this healthy snack recipe from the University of Michigan Extension. Pop your favorite popcorn the old-fashioned way. You can use an air popper instead of a microwave-style bag. Use this homemade spray to flavor the healthy way.
Homemade Butter Spray
1 Food-grade spray bottle, washed in boiling water and then air dried to remove all water
8 oz. of very light flavored extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons butter extract – found in the spice section
Fill your spray bottle with the olive oil. Add butter extract. Gently shake before you use it each time to mix the butter flavor into the oil. Spray on popcorn.
Mary Ehret is the Penn State Extension Nutrition Links Supervisor in Luzerne, Lackawanna, Monroe, Carbon, Sullivan and Bradford counties. Reach her at 570-825-1701 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.