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Learn how to Develop Popcorn: Planting, Harvesting, Drying, Storage & Popping


Staff member
Mar 15, 2024
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All about learn how to develop popcorn: one absolutely the funnest issues I develop in my backyard yearly! Homegrown popcorn will not be solely colourful and scrumptious, however unwrapping every ear appears like opening presents on Christmas morning.

I didn’t begin out as an amazing popcorn grower although. My first couple years I solely received spotty, ugly ears… now I develop a ton of extremely stunning popcorn yearly! I’ll let you know how! I’ve even been breeding my very own selection referred to as “Midnight Purple Popcorn.”

To see what else I’m rising, follow me on Instagram (click here!).

Popcorn sometimes takes the complete season, so plant it as quickly as you’ll be able to after the hazard of frost has handed.

For me in Zone 4 Wisconsin with a final frost date in mid-Could, I normally plant corn over the last two weeks of Could. I watch the climate and plant on the early aspect if it’s heat and later if cool. On a chilly 12 months, we generally plant the primary week in June. Corn seeds will germinate finest when the soil is 60°F or hotter. If the soil is just too chilly it has the next danger of simply rotting as a substitute of sprouting.

Corn is likely one of the few crops that’s not really useful to start out indoors or in pots. It is vitally tough to transplant efficiently, so except you’re skilled, instantly sow it within the floor.

how to grown homegrown popcorn

Karl’s 94-year previous grandpa (who has been farming his total life) says that you just “plant corn when the oak leaves are the dimensions of a squirrel’s ear.” He’s been planting corn for a looong time and is aware of a factor or two about learn how to develop popcorn!

For finest pollination, plant corn in a grid relatively than lengthy rows.

For instance, in case you have 100 seeds to plant, it’s significantly better to plant 5 rows of 20 than 2 rows of fifty.

Plant corn seed about 1-inch deep within the soil. We plant popcorn 10-inches aside within the row, and the rows are spaced 2 ft aside.

We hoe a row, drop within the corn, then cowl it up. I discover that once I use good, recent seed and plant when it’s heat sufficient, I all the time have good germination. I don’t normally over-plant after which skinny.

It’s additionally essential that you just plant *sufficient* popcorn vegetation. Intention for at least 20. It will guarantee there’s loads of pollen floating round and also you’ll get good pollination and good full ears.

Cross-pollination may cause your popcorn to not pop.

That is essential for studying learn how to develop popcorn: for many crops, cross pollination doesn’t have an effect on the vegetation which might be rising proper now in your backyard, however solely the seed you may save from them and develop the next 12 months. Corn is completely different. If pollen from a special sort of corn pollinates your popcorn, it can have an effect on your crop this 12 months.

When corn is able to be pollinated, it sends up its tassel. On the identical time it begins creating immature ears that expose their silks. The pollen is produced on the tassel and is blown by the wind down on the silks. Every silk is related to at least one corn kernel. Every silk has to get pollen on it to kind a full ear of corn.

In case you are rising popcorn and there’s candy corn or discipline corn close by, and that corn is releasing pollen on the identical time your popcorn is, your popcorn may be affected and can probably not pop nicely.

To stop this, specialists say to maintain completely different corn varieties ½ mile aside— that is the gold normal. You may sometimes get away with much less although. I plant candy corn in a single backyard house and popcorn in a special house. These are about 300 yards away and separated by our home and a few timber, and that has all the time labored nicely for me.

how to grown homegrown popcorn

There are different methods you should utilize, like masking the silks and hand pollinating them, or rising various kinds of corn that tassel at completely different occasions… however these are very superior practices.

The final advice is that popcorn wants 1 inch of water per week.

I can let you know from expertise (I’m a neglectful plant mom generally) that popcorn can develop fairly nicely with much less water than that.

Like all vegetation, popcorn will do finest if it doesn’t need to compete with weeds for sources. We sometimes weed two or thrice within the first month when it’s nonetheless small and rising. As soon as it’s knee-high or taller, the leaves do a very good job of shading the soil and stopping weeds the remainder of the season. It’s a reasonably low-maintenance crop on this manner.

I can’t stress this sufficient: popcorn must FULLY DRY on the plant earlier than being picked!

You’ll discover the husks flip from inexperienced to yellow to papery dry and brown. Because the ears dry, the complete stalk will begin to dry as nicely. If attainable, wait till the complete stalk is lifeless and brown earlier than selecting the ears. DO decide them as quickly as they’re dry although, to forestall pests like rodents and birds from consuming them.

Additionally be aware that the ears dry from the surface in, so whereas they could appear to be they’re yellow and dry on the surface, the inside leaves will nonetheless be inexperienced for some time. Learn how to inform if an ear of corn is definitely dry or simply seems dry however isn’t, is one thing you’ll study with expertise.

how to grown homegrown popcorn

When you decide the popcorn prematurely, it is not going to pop pretty much as good, and possibly not even pop in any respect. I do know it’s tempting (belief me, I do know!) to peek or decide some ears early, however don’t. If the husk has any inexperienced on it, don’t decide it.

Choose the ears by pulling them with a downward movement off the stalk. Often the sooner and faster you’ll be able to pull them, the higher!

What about rain?

Don’t decide the popcorn whether it is moist from rain; let it dry out first. I have a look at the forecast and attempt to time selecting when it’s been dry. If the corn is prepared or *so shut* to prepared and there’s every week of rain within the forecast, I’ll decide earlier than the rain.

What about frost?

It’s normally the chilly climate of fall that causes me to choose my popcorn. If I’m cautious (in my quick northern rising season) concerning the varieties I choose, they’ll be simply dry sufficient to choose by the point the chilly climate forces me to.

Corn that’s within the means of drying can tolerate a light-weight frost, so don’t assume it’s a must to decide it shortly if an early fall frost is looming.

Onerous freeze is completely different and it is determined by how far alongside the corn is. If the husks are completely yellow and largely brown and dry and there’s a tough freeze coming, I’ll normally decide it.

If it’s going to get very chilly and your corn nonetheless has loads of inexperienced within the husk and the kernels are tender and milky, you may lose it as a popcorn crop (you might be able to salvage it as flour corn as a substitute).

Shuck (take away the husks) instantly after selecting.

When even slightly moisture is left within the husks (and there normally is) the corn will begin to mildew shortly.

If you’d like the corn to function a ornament, peel the husks again one by one in order that they stick straight up. When you solely intend to make use of the corn for meals, you’ll be able to shuck the corn faster by pulling again a number of husks at a time. Then as soon as the corn is unwrapped, break the husks off from the ear.

Popcorn must be dried extra after harvest earlier than being saved and earlier than it can pop!

Corn drying occurs in two phases: section 1 drying occurs on the plant, and section 2 drying occurs after being picked. Regardless that we let the corn dry on the plant, it nonetheless must dry extra earlier than it can pop nicely. It additionally must dry extra earlier than storing, in any other case it’s more likely to mildew.

how to dry homegrown popcorn

Set the shucked ears in a single layer someplace with good airflow. I normally simply use an additional desk, or a giant piece of cardboard on the ground. Corn needs to be dried in a managed setting and someplace the place rodents received’t steal it.

How lengthy it takes to complete drying will probably be completely different for everybody. Elements like when it was harvested, how dry it was, and the relative humidity can have an effect on how briskly it dries. In case you are in a really arid local weather (I’m not), take a look at it prior to what I like to recommend under.

The moisture content material of popcorn needs to be between 11 to fifteen.5% for it to pop nicely. We now have to seek out the Goldilocks level: If it has an excessive amount of moisture or too little, it received’t pop nicely.

Since there isn’t a sensible manner for residence gardeners to measure the moisture content material of popcorn, the easiest way is to check pop it. I sometimes let my popcorn dry for one month in the home earlier than attempting to check pop it. I merely pop a handful of kernels and see how they do. Once I get an almost-perfect pop charge, I’ll take a look at a bigger amount from a number of ears to double verify. If that pops nicely too, I do know it’s prepared!

If it doesn’t pop nicely, I’ll wait one other week and take a look at once more. What do you do if it doesn’t pop? In case your corn has been drying in the home for two months and it nonetheless doesn’t pop nicely, then I’m sorry to say that it most likely isn’t going to. It could possibly be the variability, as some corns marketed as popcorn don’t truly pop nicely ( you Glass Gem!). It could possibly be that it got here from dangerous seed inventory, it was cross-pollinated, or not dried correctly on the plant. This corn nonetheless makes a beautiful ornament! It may be used for flour, cornmeal, masa… and even treats in your chickens.

As soon as the corn is popping nicely, shell it (take away the kernels) and retailer in an air-tight container instantly!

The purpose is to let it dry till it’s good for popping, then shell it and retailer in an hermetic container. It will seize it on the good moisture stage and forestall it from drying an excessive amount of extra.

Certainly one of my favourite winter actions, shelling is eradicating the kernels from the cob. There are a number of methods to shell corn, some simpler than others. For years we used our arms to do that job, however that may get tough in case you have greater than a dozen ears. It takes loads of hand muscle and may tear up your pores and skin for those who don’t put on gloves. Then we found a corn hand sheller, which was life altering! We develop tons of of ears yearly, and this allowed us to shell it about 10 occasions sooner and with a lot much less ache.

how to shell and remove kernels from homegrown popcorn

The corn sheller we use is made by Decker and is bought at many alternative agricultural provide shops. I’ll link to it on Amazon (click here), however I’d advocate procuring round. There’s a small and enormous model, so be sure you know which one you’re getting. We now have each sizes and use each yearly. We use the smaller measurement extra typically, however each are vital in case you are a semi-serious popcorn grower.

We sit on the kitchen desk with our corn shellers and a pair massive baking pans to catch the corn. It’s not a foul technique to spend a chilly winter’s day! You insert the corn by way of the middle and twist it by way of. The nubbins within the sheller knock off all of the kernels. When you don’t have a corn sheller, use your arms (thumbs, largely) to push the kernels off the cob. And put on gloves!

Popcorn is finest saved in glass jars to seize and maintain its moisture stage.

I take advantage of massive half gallon or quart jars with 2-piece lids (normal canning lids).

how to store homegrown popcorn

Plastic luggage should not air-tight and can permit gasoline alternate by way of the plastic over time. For that reason, plastic isn’t an amazing alternative, particularly if storing a whole 12 months’s value of popcorn. If you wish to retailer in luggage, use mylar as a substitute.

An air-popper is my most popular methodology for popping homegrown popcorn!

Now that you just’ve realized learn how to develop popcorn, the following step is studying learn how to pop it. Homegrown popcorn could be a little extra finicky than store-bought, and an air popper (click here) by no means fails me.

how to pop homegrown popcorn

In fact, it may be popped utilizing different strategies too. Homegrown popcorn may be popped on the stovetop, however I’ve had the perfect luck with an air popper.

In case your homegrown popcorn isn’t popping nicely for you, it’s value attempting an air popper. I additionally like to drench my popcorn in butter, so I like that I don’t want further oil to pop it.

Pleased rising! Let me know in case you have any questions on learn how to develop popcorn!
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