When it comes to planting and harvesting a healthy snack, its hard to beat growing popcorn!
There is simply something magical about popping a batch of home-grown popping corn. When that very first kernel explodes as it pops, there is a certain amount of accomplishment and amazement that you actually grew popcorn! And of course, “real” popcorn, (No, it does not come from a microwave bag) is actually quite healthy for you.
Popcorn contains antioxidants, and in addition to being a whole grain, is a great source of fiber. It is also a great choice for those on a diet. A single cup of butter-free popcorn contains less than 40 calories!
And then there is the taste! Classic heirloom varieties like Ladyfinger, Dakota Black and Strawberry popcorn are simply delicious, and easy to grow! In fact, you will be hard pressed to find an easier crop to plant, maintain, and harvest!
Tips To Growing Popcorn
Popcorn seed should be planted in the late spring, when soil has had a chance to warm. Popcorn, like sweet corn, needs soil temperatures at a minimum of 60 degrees for good germination and early growth.
Sow seed in rows, 4 to 6 inches apart, with a planting depth of 1.5″ to 2″. For best results plant rows at least 18 to 24″ apart. Be sure to plant a minimum of 2 rows, although 4 short rows are better than 2 long ones. The 4 row set-up allows for better pollination of the corn crop. Seed Links :Dakota Black Popcorn Seed, Strawberry Popcorn Seed, Ladyfinger Popcorn Seed
As seeds germinate, keep rows weeded early on. Corn uses high amounts of nitrogen from the soil, and weed growth around seedlings can rob those nutrients. Once corn begins to grow, the foliage of the stalks will keep much of the weed growth at bay.
One final tip when planting – when growing popcorn, always choose a separate location from sweet corn. The two will cross-pollinate if planted beside each other or in the same immediate vicinity. It can make for a much less tasty crop for both varieties. A minimum of 100 feet between crops should help do the trick.
Harvesting and Drying Popcorn
Unlike sweet corn, popcorn can be allowed to dry on the stocks. Be aware that as kernels dry, they will become more attractive to wildlife. Both deer and raccoon can demolish a corn patch quickly.
Once the corn has dried, remove it from the stalks and place in a warm, well-ventilated area to continue the drying process further.
Wire baskets or bushel baskets with vents work well. You can also place your corn cobs on an old screen up on blocks to allow for good circulation. Let corn dry a minimum of 2 to 3 weeks before removing from the cob.
Hand-held corn shellers are a great tool to easily remove kernels from the cob. See : Metal Corn Sheller
You can also put on a sturdy pair of leather palm gloves and remove by hand. This is fairly easy for a small crop. if you are growing popcorn in larger quantities, it is wise to invest in a hand-held sheller.
To store, place in clean, sealed jar or airtight plastic bag. Popcorn that is dry and stored properly will keep well over a year without losing any of its vigor or taste.
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