As outdoor activities decrease and we begin to retreat inside, what better way to celebrate the season (and watch a scary movie) then to curl up on the couch with a big bowl of homegrown popcorn. Varieties of popcorn have been grown for years in the US. Commercially most of the production is in the Midwest, in states such as Nebraska and Indiana. However, many of the seed companies that you would buy your typical vegetable seeds from also offer popcorn seed.
Popcorn takes the same cultural requirements that would go into growing sweet corn. The key to good popcorn though is to pick it when it is properly dried out. At the end of the growing season the kernels start to harden on the ears and the husks start to dry.
When you think the kernels are dry enough, you can test it by picking one ear, peeling the husk off back, and giving the ear a hard twist between your two hands. A few kernels should come off of the ear; these will be you test kernels.
If you are popping it on the stove top you will need a sauce pot with a lid. Put enough oil in the pot to cover the bottom and then turn it on medium heat. When the oil is hot, throw in a couple kernels and put the lid back on the pot. It will take a few seconds but the kernels will explode and transform into a small popped piece of corn. If the popcorn is to chewy it then needs more time to dry out, so leave the ears on the stalks a little longer and keep testing kernels until you have the popped kernels are light and crisp
Once you have all your ears harvested, they need to be stored in a cool dry place like a garage, but make sure they are protected from rodents. You can either shuck the ears as needed, or shuck them all at once. While it’s a larger endeavor to do it all at once, it pays off in the end when you can simply take scoops of kernels whenever you want to pop some popcorn.
Next year set aside some space in your garden and grow some popcorn. You will be rewarded in the fall when you are curled up on the couch watching you favorite scary movie with a big bowl of your homegrown popcorn.