Movie theaters aren’t the only places to find good popcorn. You may develop popcorn (Zea mays everta) in your own garden even in the event that you have not tried it previously. However, the seeds that you sow aren’t the same as the ones to develop sweet corn. Only specific types of corn plants bear ears with kernels that pop.
Kinds of Corn
Varieties of corn have been grouped into four categories: sweet corn, field corn, ornamental corn and popcorn. Field corn can be dent or flint types, which can be hard-shelled and usually ground into meal or used for animal feed. Dent corn is also named for the indentation at the top of its kernels and grows in warmer climates while flint sorts grow best in cooler areas. Sweet corn is a table vegetable and ornamental corn is also used for decorations. Popcorn is exceptional among corn varieties because of its starchy endosperm that expands and pops when heated.
As a favored American snack, popcorn is not a new cultivated type. Its history goes back to 3600 B.C., making it one of the oldest types of corn. Two types of popcorn — rice and strawberry are known for their shapes. Pearl popcorn is more rounded and rice popcorn is longer. Both types can be found in a rainbow of colours such as red, blue, purple and pink, with a few ears sporting multi-colored kernels. Popcorn cultivars vary in height from 3 feet tall, like “Tom Thumb,” to 8 feet, like “Ruby Red.” “Strawberry” popcorn has reddish kernels, “Mini Blue” has blue kernels and “Cutie Pops” bears multi-colored kernels.
Regardless of whether you grow sweet corn, field corn, cosmetic types or popcorn, they all need the same care. But should you plant popcorn in the same garden as sweet corn, then plants will cross-pollinate each other and it will compromise the taste of your sweet corn. Popcorn plants grow best in full sun after soil warms to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. If you sow seeds in cool dirt they will germinate sporadically or not at all. Since corn is wind-pollinated, group plants in blocks instead of lined up in long rows. As corn stalks develop, adventitious roots develop from lower stems and peg down into the soil to form props that encourage heavy stalks. Deep watering to a depth of 1 to 1 1/2 inches after a week is much better than frequent sprinklings.
Harvesting and Popping
Popcorn is not harvested when kernels are soft and tender like sweet corn, but when husks are brownish and kernels have completely dried and hardened. As popcorn kernels heat, the moisture within the starchy endosperm turns to steam and explodes, effectively turning the kernel inside out. After harvesting the ears, remove the husks before placing the ears in a mesh bag and keeping in a warm and dry place. Occasionally, remove some kernels and test to see whether they pop nicely. When they do, the corn is sufficiently dry and you’re able to shell the rest of the kernels and store them in an airtight container. You may put whole ears of miniature cultivars, like “Tom Thumb,” into paper bags, tape them shut and pop in the fridge.