If you like to garden, popcorn is a great choice. Popcorn is different from regular corn because it is starchy and not sweet. The delicious popped kernels are both beautiful and delicious to eat. Your crop will need only minimal care and the results will be a great source of pride.
When deciding to grow your own popcorn, find a full sun location and add lots of nutrients such as a good organic fertilizer like compost or manure to the soil so that it will provide a continuous supply of food. Be sure to select a variety that will mature in your area. Sow seeds directly in the garden in spring in several short rows to ensure even pollination. Plant the seeds exactly as you would sweet corn keeping in mind to isolate from sweet corn as the quality would be reduced if it was cross-pollinated with popcorn. Plant the seeds 1 to 1½ inches deep and 8 to 10 inches apart. Soil should be moist but not wet and also be kept weed free, thin as needed. When the stalks are about knee high, hill up the soil around any exposed roots to give the plants additional support.
Allow the kernels to dry in the field as long as possible, the husks will eventually turn brown and the kernels will be hard and dry. Pick the popcorn cobs, peel the husks back and tie the ears together by the husks. Hang the ears in a dry, airy place to cure for another week or two. Once or twice a week do a “pop test” by shelling a few kernels and try popping them. If the popcorn is chewy or the popped kernels are jagged, it is too wet and needs to continue drying. When the test kernels are popping well and tasting good, flake off the kernels by rubbing two ears together and store the kernels in a covered jar in a cool place.
You may also want to try drying the kernels in the oven. Preheat the oven to 300 F while removing the husks from the popcorn cobs. Push the kernels of corn off each cob with your thumb and discard the cobs. Arrange the popcorn kernels in a single layer in a large roasting pan, then place the pan in the oven. Turn down the oven to the lowest temperature setting. Dry the popcorn for five hours. Stir it every hour. Turn off the oven and leave the popcorn overnight.
Once your corn is shelled, dried and cleaned, it’s ready to store. Store the kernels in sealed, airtight containers. If stored properly, popcorn should retain its popping quality for several years. Unshelled corn should be stored at temperatures near 32F and high relative humidity. If stored popcorn fails to pop, it may be too dry. Add 1 tablespoon of water to a quart of popcorn. Cover and shake at frequent intervals until the popcorn has absorbed the water. After 3 or 4 days, test pop a few kernels to see if it’s ready. Add more water and repeat the process until the popcorn pops well.