How Sweet It Is: National Jelly Bean Day
April is a big month for the jelly bean. In addition to showing up in a lot of Easter baskets, jelly beans have a whole day dedicated to them; April 22 is National Jelly Bean Day.
Anyone who knows me is aware I have a sweet tooth, but what my friends and family may not know is that jelly beans are sometimes my guilty pleasure. In moments of weakness — since I usually try to limit my sugar intake — I may be drawn to the candy aisle in a drug store or supermarket. Forsaking something chocolaty good, I often reach for a bag of jelly beans.
The package says, “fat free,” so why not? Of course, I know jelly beans are far from a healthy snack. Their basic ingredients are sugar, tapioca or corn syrup, and pectin or starch. And, minor amounts of the emulsifying agent lecithin, anti-foaming agents, an edible wax like carnauba or beeswax, salt and confectioner’s glaze are also included.
Despite that rather unappetizing list, those little sugar bombs are so addictive — and I can almost convince myself I’m not sinning too much knowing they’re just four calories each. I’m especially fond of the traditional flavors; I’m not as big a fan of all the gourmet jelly beans that flood the market today. But I admire the creativity to come up with flavors like Toasted Marshmallow, Dr Pepper, Caramel Corn, Bubble Gum and many, many more.
Ready for some jelly bean education?
Jelly Bean History
I couldn’t find any information about who created National Jelly Bean Day, but I can share a bit of history about these sweet treats. While candies made in a similar manner existed before the Civil War, Boston confectioner William Schrafft made them popular during that time. Jelly beans were the first candies to be sold by the pound, and due to their firm exterior, Schrafft encouraged customers to send them to Union soldiers. (A secret weapon, perhaps?)
It was during the 1930s that jelly beans became closely associated with Easter, but as you know they’re enjoyed year-round today. You may also be aware that jelly beans were Ronald Reagan’s favorite treat — but did you know he kicked his smoking habit by eating them?
Observing the Holiday
I was unable to find any formal celebrations of National Jelly Bean Day — no parades or customs to follow. It’s recommended that the best way to pay homage to the jelly bean is to enjoy your favorite flavor(s) on April 22 and share on social media using the hashtag #NationalJellyBeanDay.
Fun Facts About Jelly Beans
Jelly Belly, one of the most well-known jelly bean manufacturers, shared the following fun facts about them in a USA Today article:
It takes seven to 21 days to make a single Jelly Belly jelly bean.
Very Cherry flavored jelly beans have been the most popular flavor since 2003. Before that, Buttered Popcorn held the top spot since 1998.
Enough jelly beans are eaten in a typical year to circle the Earth more than five times.
The first jelly bean was created by an unknown American candy maker in the 1800s.
The original eight flavors of Jelly Belly beans were Very Cherry, Root Beer, Cream Soda, Tangerine, Green Apple, Lemon, Licorice and Grape.
Blueberry flavored beans were made for Ronald Reagan's presidential inauguration. Over three tons of jelly beans were eaten during the celebration.
Jelly Belly beans were the first jelly beans in space when they were on the space shuttle Challenger in 1983.
Jelly Belly beans of 47 different flavors — 288,000 of them — were donated to make "In Your Arms" by Kina Grannis, the first jelly bean stop-motion animation music video, which was released in November 2011.
Weird Facts About Jelly Beans
An article on SpoonUniversity.com offered the following weird facts about jelly beans:
Skittles are technically jelly beans. Jelly beans are classified as candies with hard shells and gummy interiors. Sound familiar?
The phrase jelly bean used to be slang for pimp. In the 1920s, the term was coined to describe a man who dressed nicely to get action from the ladies. Where all my jelly-bean daddies at?
Literally everybody and their mothers can eat them. They’re gluten free, peanut free, dairy free, fat free and kosher. And somehow, they still manage to be magical bites of flavor explosion.
Smells, not tastes, are the first to be analyzed to create a certain flavor jelly bean.
Beetle poop is the secret ingredient that makes jelly beans shiny. The FDA calls this “shellac” and not beetle dump for some strange reason. It’s actually found in a lot more candy than just jelly beans — Hershey’s, Milk Duds, Junior Mints, Godiva Chocolate and candy corn.
Jelly beans are descendants of Turkish Delights. You probably know what those are if you watched “Chronicles of Narnia.”
Gag-Worthy Jelly Bean Flavors
The folks at Jelly Belly have a strange sense of humor, because they’ve come up with two lines — Harry Potter Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans and BeanBoozled — that are foul enough to make someone swear off jelly beans forever. Even more diabolical, the BeanBoozled jelly beans trick hapless sweet tooths into eating beans that look like normal, tasty flavors, but actually taste quite disgusting.
Bertie Bott’s flavors include:
BeanBoozled flavors include:
Canned Dog Food
I am not making this up. Check it out.
While I suggest you steer clear of the latter group of jelly bean flavors, remember to pick up some of your favorites before April 22 so you can participate in National Jelly Bean Day. And feel free to share any jelly bean memories you have with us.