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Growing And Harvesting Popcorn – Popcorn Picking Time At The Farm!

The beauty of just picked strawberry popcorn.

The beauty of just picked strawberry popcorn.

This week was popcorn harvest time at the farm!  We have waited all year for our little crop to grow and be ready – and as the stalks began to turn brown – it was finally time for picking!

Popcorn is one of our favorite snacks at the house – and there is nothing  better than popping your own home-grown stash!  Popcorn is actually incredibly healthy for you.  No, we’re not talking about the kind coated in fake butter, salt – and popped in bags in a microwave.

Popcorn ears drying on the stalks - and ready to be picked.

Popcorn ears drying on the stalks – and ready to be picked.

What we love to eat is pure all-natural popcorn – which we pop in a stove-top wok (with a lid of course 🙂 ), with just a simple tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.  You could also just as easily pop in an air popper if you have one – but either way – you end up with a great snack that is high in fiber and low in calories. The taste of true home grown popcorn can’t be beat!

There are so many varieties of popcorn to choose from – but all in all – growing any of them is much like growing your own sweet corn – with the exception they stay on the stalk a little longer to mature into hard popping kernels.

Popcorn ears developing in mid-summer

Popcorn ears developing in mid-summer

We grow an heirloom variety called Strawberry popcorn – which produces anywhere from 2 to 4 miniature 3 to 5″ cobs with bright strawberry red kernels on each stalk.  The stalks of Strawberry corn are on the smaller size as well – growing anywhere from 3 to 5′ tall to maturity. That size works well for us – as we actually plant our popcorn seed by tucking it into one of our landscape beds that are filled with ornamental grasses and peppers.  It blends in well with the tall grasses and adds a litle extra dimension and beauty to the bed space.  It has become one of our favorite things to do in all of our flower beds around the farm – interspersing the beauty of annual and perennial flowers with peppers and other food crops that can also feed us.

In addition – the strawberry corn can be used for fall decorations, and then shelled afterwards for use – making it a great dual use plant!

Strawberry popcorn is a great dual use plant - it can be used for fall decorations and as a great popcorn later!

Strawberry popcorn is a great dual use plant – it can be used for fall decorations and as a great popcorn later!

You start by sowing seed in mid to late spring, allowing the stalks and subsequent ears that develop to become plump and mature.  We leave our ears on until early to mid September, or until the stalks and leaves begin to fade and turn brown. (For us, it should be early September, but with our wet and cooler summer this year – we just now picked our ears).

After picking – we let our ears dry out for a few weeks in the barn by hanging up or placing on an old screen to cure.  As soon as the kernels become dry and hard and fall of the cob with a little push of your fingers – they are ready to pop!

You can store the corn in mason jars or any sealed container – and they will keep long enough on the shelf until your next batch of popcorn is ready the following fall!

Happy Gardening!   – Jim and Mary

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