Terrifying or tasty, it's candy corn season

(RNN) - Long sleeves, colorful leaves, cooler weather are all signs that fall has arrived. Add candy corn hitting store shelves to that list.

"Candy was traditionally a seasonal thing, people would start making candy in the early fall for the holiday season," said Tomi Holt, the director of communications at Jelly Belly Candy Company. She explains that summer – then as it is now – was ice cream season, and candy was available after the weather cooled off.

"I totally consider candy corn an actual vegetable during the fall season," Nicole Stokesberry DePalma wrote on Facebook.

Candy corn fun facts:

Oct. 30 is National Candy Corn Day.

Each kernel has about 4 calories.

One serving of candy corn contains only about 140 calories.

More than 35 million pounds of candy corn will be produced this year. That equates to nearly 9 billion pieces - enough to circle the moon nearly 21 times if laid end-to-end.

The Jelly Belly company has made candy corn continuously since 1898 and has been making candy corn longer than any company in the business today.

Sources: The National Confectioners Association and Jelly Belly Candy Company

Candy corn is as American as apple pie, yet sparks a debate as divisive as the debt ceiling. There is no middle ground on the candy corn debate; people seem to either love the tri-colored kernals or hate them.

Those who love the kernels say they love the sweet taste and the candy reminds them of Halloween.

"I can't get enough candy corn. I eat it all year long. It's an addiction for me. Sometimes I make myself quit eating it for a while, but I always fall off the wagon at Halloween," Nancy Sonnichsen Storrs wrote on KCBD's Facebook page.

Halloween kicks off the candy season that lasts through Christmas, Valentine's Day and ends at Easter. According to the National Retailers Federation's 2011 Halloween Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, seven in 10 Americans plan to celebrate Halloween, and 73.5 percent of adults will hand out candy. The survey doesn't touch on consumption of candy that didn't make it into the bags of trick-or-treaters.

But there are people who would rather give away candy corn than save some for themselves. A waxy texture or that the kernels are too sweet are the most common complaints on Facebook, and those who dislike candy corn are a little more vehement and creative in their expression of disgust.

"When I was a child and saw candy corn in my bag, it was like I was being punished for something. Please do not hand out candy corn to children. If you enjoy it, keep it for yourself and chow down. I would not give it to my dog. The only reason it fits well with Halloween is because the taste is terrifying," said Jamon Horton on WTMV's Facebook page.

Clearly not everyone hates candy corn. According to the National Confectioners Association (NCA), more than 35 million pounds will be produced this year.

"That equates to nearly 9 billion pieces - enough to circle the moon nearly 21 times if laid end-to-end," reads the NCA website.

How a candy shaped like a vegetable became a holiday staple is the quintessential American story.

George Renniger, an employee at the Wunderlee Candy Company in the 1880s, invented candy corn, according to the NCA. In 1900, the Goelitz Candy Company (now known as Jelly Belly Candy Company) started producing the confection, and still produces the candy today.

The NCA website says that candy corn was popular among farmers when it was first sold "because of its agrarian look."

[SLIDESHOW: Funky Halloween pumpkins]

Holt says the Jelly Belly Candy Company has records dating back to the early 20th century that shows novelty candy was a hot seller. (And not the wax lips or candy cigarettes like today.)

Butter creme candy in the shape of turnips, chestnuts and carrots were already popular, so a candy shaped like a kernal of corn wasn't much of a stretch.

"Novelty candy was a visual pun on everything that was readily available," Holt said. "Everyone had chickens in their yard, they had corn and they had feed - and they turned it into a treat."

The tri-color design of candy corn was something the public had never seen, and people couldn't get enough of it. However, it wasn't easy to make; the candy industry wasn't automated back then, so big, strong men made the tiny candies by hand.

Candy makers used the corn starch molding process. A tray with small depressions was first filled with corn starch. Candy corn is made from the bottom up and required a "runner" carrying 50-pound buckets of steaming fondant to pass over the molds.

The syrup has to partially set before the next pass is made. To create the tri-color, this took three passes (white, orange and yellow-colored sugar paste) of hot buckets over the molds.

The bucket men were called "stringers" because the hot candy appeared to come out of the bottom of the bucket in strings. After the candy finished cooling, the trays were emptied and the candy corn kernels were ready.

"It was backbreaking work," Holt said. "The kettles were hot, and the candies were hot. The stringers would have to go over the molds by hand, and that took a lot of strength."

Although candy corn is now made by machines, the candy is still manufactured in a similar process and the basic recipe hasn't changed in 100 years.

"We never tweak the recipe, it stays constant," Holt said.

The candy corn the Jelly Belly Candy Company makes is vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free and egg-free. However it's not vegan because they do use beeswax to create shine on the candy.

The recipe may not change, but now candy corn changes with the season. If you can't satisfy your sweet tooth after Halloween, candy manufacturers now make Reindeer corn which is red and green), cupid corn (pink and white for Valentine's day) and bunny corn (assorted pastels for Easter) to carry fans through the spring.

However, those who want to stock up on candy corn, an unopened package will last about nine months, according to the NCA. An opened package – stored properly – will last approximately three to six months.

But if you're like Cynthia McLaughlin Roberts, you'll have a hard time keeping it around.

"Love it! Pure sugary sweet heaven. Sometimes, just to make it last a little longer, I eat the colors separately, just nibbling each color off in turn."

What our Facebook fans had to say:

We asked our Facebook fans if they love candy corn or hate it. Here's what they said:

Love it:

"I don't know but it sure disappears from my candy dish at work ..." - Rhonda Giussani (KCBD)

"Pure sugary heaven and I even have a ritual of how I eat it. The top color, then the bottom color, then the middle. Love it." - Rita Martin Brown (KCBD)

"Candy corn tastes like Halloween!" - Leslie A. Smith (KCBD)

"Love candy corn, reminds me of a lil kid when we would bite off the ends and put them on our teeth and it looked like we all had yellow teeth LOL!" - Diana Salazar Garcia (KOLD)

"It's wonderful. I love love love it!! It reminds me of my childhood when I would dress up in a costume created out of whatever we had, nothing store bought, and go trick-or-treating. It was easy to eat right of way. No wrappers to mess with." - Anita Vaughn Moore (WFIE)

"Love it. Combine it with peanuts and it is out of this world delicious. Tastes like a Payday candy bar. Yum." - Nancy Lynn (KOLD)

Hate it:

"Nasty Nasty Nasty ... I have never been able to understand how people like it! Tastes like wax to me!" - Kalli Millican Smith (KCBD)

"Yick! Waxy garbage - of course, my kid LOVES them." - Julie Leonard Smith (KOLD)

"Yuck! Way too sweet! Why not just eat pure sugar right outta the bag? Only candy that I can think of that's worse ... those foamy orange circus peanuts (or whatever they're called) ... but that's just my opinion." - Jenafer K. Wright Peterson (KPLC)

"TOO SWEET. I prefer to put two candy corns on my canine teeth and act like a vampire." - Anna Tolstoy Bruce (KPLC)

"Just one word ... YECHHHH!!!!!!!!!" - Vicki Edwards (WTMV)

"I think ... because I don't know ... dog poop on a stick would taste better. Hate. Candy. Corn." - Penney Thorne (KCBD)

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