Ick or treat? 5 strange facts about candy corn

Posted at 2:52 PM, Oct 28, 2014

NEW YORK — Yes, there’s actually corn in it. Corn syrup, if that counts. Each kernel has three colors, about seven calories and a lot of sugar. Many people, including comedian Lewis Black, can’t stand it.

And yet every October, it fills candy bowls, trick-or-treat bags and the mouths of sweet-toothed snackers everywhere.

For millions, it wouldn’t be Halloween without candy corn.

Manufacturers will produce more than 35 million pounds of the humble tricolored candy this year. That’s almost 9 billion pieces.

With National Candy Corn Day approaching on Thursday, here are some things you may not know about the polarizing confection.

People love it or hate it

For an innocuous little treat, candy corn sure sparks strong opinions. When CNN polled people on Facebook last year about it, we got more than 1,200 comments.

“It is a serious weakness. I’m sick from eating it all night,” one woman said.

“HATE it and I cannot emphasize the word hate enough,” said another.

Roughly three-quarters of the people surveyed on Facebook said they liked the stuff.

“For me, October’s candy gauntlet arrives in the form of a little tri-colored mellocreme known as candy corn,” wrote Samira Kawash in The Atlantic. “I can pass by the Hershey’s Kisses and the mini-Snickers. But when I get to the bowl of candy corn, all bets are off.”

You can count Black among the haters, though. In one of his stand-up bits, the comic jokes that manufacturers just collect and resell the same candy kernels year after year, because nobody actually eats the stuff.

“All the candy corn that’s ever been made was made in 1911,” he says.

It used to be made by hand in large kettles

Candy corn seems like a relatively modern invention, but it dates to the 1880s, before the automobile and the commercial telephone. The Goelitz Candy Co. began making it in 1900 before being gobbled up by the Jelly Belly Candy Co., which still produces candy corn today.

In the early days of the 20th century, workers cooked sugar, corn syrup, marshmallow and other ingredients into a slurry in large kettles and then poured the warm mixture by hand into cornstarch trays imprinted with the kernel shape.

Today, of course, machines do almost all the work.

There’s a proper way to eat it

OK, not really. But many people believe that candy corn, like Oreos, should be nibbled in a certain manner.

While almost half of candy corn consumers gobble the whole piece at once, 43% start with the narrow white end, according to a survey by the National Confectioners Association.

Another 10% — the true renegades — begin eating the wider yellow end first.

It can be deep-fried

Of course it can. This month, Amy Erickson posted a recipe on her food blog, Oh Bite It!, that involves rolling three or four candy corn kernels in a ball of dough and then frying them in hot oil.

“What do we do to things we don’t need/want/like?” she wrote. “We fry it … that’s what! Frying makes everything better …”

The sugary, waxy taste of candy corn has also inspired smoothies, cocktails and even Jell-O shots.

There are versions for other holidays

It’s not just for Halloween any more. Manufacturers now produce “Indian corn” (with a brown end instead of yellow) for Thanksgiving, “Reindeer corn” (red and green) for Christmas, “Cupid corn” (red and pink) for Valentine’s Day, “Bunny corn” (white and various bright colors) for Easter and “Freedom corn” (red, white and blue) for July 4.

Can green “St. Paddy’s corn” be far behind?