Every year we like to grow something we haven’t tried before just to keep things interesting. After talking with a friend about heirloom corn we settled on growing popcorn. We are selling six pack starts of two varieties: Dakota Black and Strawberry Heirloom popcorns. It is our hope that families will take this on as a project and enjoy the whole process from planting, growing care and then harvest to popping. Yum!
Here are some growing tips to get you started.
Site: a sunny, wind-protected area. Corn is an extremely heavy feeder, especially on nitrogen, so add several inches of good organic compost to your planting area in preparation. Work a handful or two of Bonemeal into the soil and sprinkle organic fertilizer around stalks once a month until harvest.
Growing guidelines: Popcorn is a hungry feeder, especially when it comes to nitrogen. Give small popcorn plants a jump start with a smooth bed enriched with plenty of compost or aged manure. Follow up with a high nitrogen fertilizer every two to four weeks or a foliar spray every one to two weeks until the corn begins to tassel. Examples of a natural fertilizer high in nitrogen includes composted manure, fish meal, alfalfa meal, or other organic sources. Cut back on nitrogen if plants turn a dark shade of green.
Water: Water plants regularly and deeply, especially when the stalks begin to tassel, which is the feathery flower at the top that releases pollen. Be sure to thoroughly wet the entire root zone. (Mulching around plants with compost or composted manure will feed plants, conserve soil moisture, and help prevent weeds.) Water less frequently once the ears have filled out. This will help produce the best yields and quality of popcorn.
Enjoying the harvest: Popcorn is ready to harvest when the silks turn brown and the kernels are fully mature, firm, and well colored. Leave corn drying on the stalks as long as possible, allowing the kernels to dry down naturally on the ear. Harvest and husk the popcorn and allow the ears to cure further in a dry and well ventilated location. Drying time can vary from one week to several weeks or more, depending on weather conditions.
Popping: Your ears of popcorn are ready to shell when the kernels come easily off the cob, which is when the moisture content is around 13 to 14 percent. Test the popcorn by popping a few kernels. (To pop, put kernels or an ear in a folded paper bag in the microwave.) If they pop, it’s time to shell the corn. To shell the corn, roll the kernels from the cob with your hand, pushing firmly with your thumb. Wearing a sturdy glove is helpful when shelling.
Store the shelled corn in a moisture-proof, airtight plastic or glass container in a cool, dry location. Avoid storing popcorn in a warm location or in the refrigerator, which can dry out the kernels. A moisture loss of as little as three percent can render your popcorn unpopable. If kernels dry out, adding a tablespoon of water per quart of popcorn may help revive their popability. Shake or stir the kernels until the moisture is absorbed, close up the container, and try popping again in a few days.
Fun and informative video for “on-the-cob” popping
Hope everyone enjoys growing your own healthy snack!