Americans love their popcorn! I can’t remember watching a movie without it. Popcorn balls at Halloween and flavored popcorn at Christmas are fond memories too. I never knew there was much difference from one kernel to the next, but there is!
Our most recent Local Producer Loan recipient, Tiny But Mighty, taught me that not all kernels are created equal. The popcorn (or maize) from Tiny But Mighty is native to North America and can claim the “heirloom” title because the genetic make-up of their product is virtually identical to the corn that covered this part of the world for thousands of years. In the 1850s, Native Americans shared this unique corn with a pioneer family who enjoyed it for generations. However, by the 1970s it was all but forgotten until a family member discovered the last remaining popcorn in a fruit jar. He planted a handful of kernels and popped the rest!
And it’s not just history that makes this product stand out — it tastes absolutely fantastic. Compared to typical popcorn varieties, Tiny But Mighty’s popped kernels are smaller and denser, which results in a concentrated burst of flavor that reduces the need for added flavorings like butter or salt. Plus, when the heirloom kernel is popped, the hull disintegrates, making the product much more enjoyable to eat — you won’t have to worry about sharp hulls stuck between your teeth.
Tiny But Mighty is a family-owned and -operated business, run by Gene and Lynn Mealhow along with their sons. They are passionate farmers who bring their love for this heirloom product to work with them every day. They’re using the proceeds from their Local Producer loan to purchase grain bins so they can increase their capacity and bring more product to market. That’ll be good for all of us because right now, you can only get Tiny But Mighty in the majority of our stores in the Midwest. I just might have to move back to Chicago!
If you are lucky enough to live in the area, pop up some Tiny But Mighty and let us know what you think.