What seeds do you use to grow popcorn?

If you are a garden enthusiast, you will be happy to hear that growing your own popcorn is an incredibly fun challenge. But what seeds do you need to grow popcorn?

Zea mays everta is the corn variety that is known as the kernel that pops. Popcorn seeds are relatively straightforward to plant, grow, and prepare for popping, but finding fertile seeds is uncommon.

Although it is not easy to get a hold of popcorn seeds, it is not impossible. Join us as we discuss the seeds needed for growing popcorn and how to go about it, so you can start creating your own delicious snack for movie nights, gifts, and much more!

What Type of Seed is Needed to Grow Popcorn?

Zea mays everta, a special type of flint corn, is cultivated for popcorn. Approximately one hundred different versions stem from the variety, comprised of many unique popcorn types, such as snowflake and mushroom-shaped popcorn.

Popular varieties include infamous light or deep gold and off-white popcorn. But you can find seeds that produce maroon, black, or even two-toned popcorn, as well. Each popcorn variant has a unique flavor, texture, and popped appearance.

Many commercial brands sell fertile popcorn seeds or you can get your hands on seeds from local farmers or seed companies. In areas that grow plenty of corn, farmers may even give out sample packets to advertise their brand.

How Do You Plant and Grow Popcorn?

Popcorn seeds grow well in most environments or amongst flowers and plants, making them quite straightforward to plant. All you need is an allocated space that is big enough for the amount of corn you want to grow.

Why Do Germination Testing?

To avoid wasting time and resources, do a germination test first. Some popcorn seed sources dry-heat kernels to kill weevil eggs, which may inhibit germination. In some cases, the popcorn seeds may not be fresh enough to grow.

Plant around 20 seeds in a row, water them and wait. They should grow in approximately two weeks. If you do not notice growth, you may need to start looking for a better or fresher popcorn seed source.

How Do You Plant Fertile Seeds?

Once you have confirmed that your seeds are fertile, you can get ready to plant them in your allocated patch. The seeds should be soaked in water for 12 hours before planting.

To ensure your corn stalks grow tall and hefty, do a soil test before planting your seeds. The soil should be well-draining, enriched with organic matter, with a pH level of around 5.8 – 7.0. Phosphorus and potassium may need to be added, depending on soil testing.

Plant the seeds around 1 – 2 inches deep in the soil, and make sure they are spaced approximately 8 – 24 inches apart. Try to plant at least four rows, with around 18 – 24 inches between the rows to promote pollination. This will ensure that your corn stalks have enough room to grow tall and wide.

If you choose to plant more than one popcorn variety, make sure they are separated properly in your garden patch. This will avoid cross-pollination and ensure all your corn stalks grow healthy.

How Do You Maintain Corn Stalks?

Ensure corn stalks are watered often and that the soil is kept free from weeds. Once the stalks grow to around knee height, cover the exposed roots with some of the surrounding soil, as this will provide additional support and help them mature much better.

The soil should be maintained by adding rotted manure or compost in spring or fall. Additionally, the soil will need to be kept relatively warm. Seeds germinate best when soil temperatures are near 60 degrees Fahrenheit. You can use plastic mulch to speed up warming.

Are Ears of Popcorn Cobs Alive?

Popcorn cobs need water, sunlight, air, and nutrients from the soil to grow, just like other plants. Without those items, the popcorn will not grow and will slowly dry and rot.

Seven Types of Popcorn You Can Grow and Pop Yourself

Growing your own popcorn in the garden is such an exciting and rewarding experience. Corn is an easy summer crop to grow. There are many interesting heirloom seed varieties available to buy online that produce wonderful cobs of popcorn.

Seven easy and delicious strains of popcorn to grow yourself are:

  1. Robust Yellow Hulles Hybrid is a reliable, super-productive variety of yellow butterfly popcorn. Their hulls are nice and thin, so they pop easily. If they are grown in full sun, they take 110 days to reach maturity.
  2. Snow Puff is an F1 hybrid corn seed variety. They grow to about 7-feet tall and produce big 8-inch ears of sweet, white corn. This variety is high-yielding and the kernels explode to a huge size when popped. They also have nice thin hulls.
  3. Carousel is an ornamental variety but it actually makes delicious, sweet popcorn. They produce small ears of red, orange, and yellow kernels. One can grow them in hardiness zones 3 to 11, and they take 100-110 days to grow to maturity.
  4. Glass Gem is a multicolored variety of popcorn. The kernels vary from blue, yellow, and red to purple, pink, and white. This rainbow popcorn is easy to grow and only takes 80 days to grow to maturity. It loves sunny conditions and thrives in zones 3 to 11.
  5. Shaman’s Blue is a very nutritious variety of popcorn. The kernels are dark blue and higher in antioxidants than yellow or white corn. This strain is disease-resistant and can grow easily in hardiness zones 3 to 12. They do need to grow in full sun.
  6. Heirloom Popcorn is a Native American strain that dries and preserves exceptionally well. They grow tall and produce big, bright yellow ears of popcorn. They take 100 days to grow to maturity. 
  7. Heirloom Strawberry popcorn looks and tastes magical! It grows tiny ears of ruby red kernels that end up looking like 2 to 3-inch strawberries when they are dried. They take only 100 days to reach maturity.

When Should You Harvest Your Popcorn?

You should be able to harvest the corn around 85 – 120 days after you have planted the seeds, depending on the seed variety, environment, soil nutrition, and other factors. Make sure to research the specific seed species you have managed to source, as every species has differentiations concerning needs and growth.

How Do You Dry and Prepare the Kernels?

The kernels need to retain approximately 14% moisture to pop – they cannot be too moist or too dry. There are plenty of options here, as many people use the sun to dry out the corn, while others use their oven. Some even leave the corn ears on the stalks after ripening.

The simplest approach is to hold back on harvesting and leave the ears on their stalks for around two months until they are dry. Then, husk and shell the ears and set some seed aside for your next planting.

Hand-shelling is slow, tedious, and can be painful at times – this is probably the hardest part of making homegrown popcorn. You may find old-fashioned corn shellers at farm auctions or you can invest in a modern sheller.

Oven-dry the kernels until they are perfect for popping. Set an oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit and place a large pan of kernels inside.

Five DeliciousThen, turn down the heat to the lowest setting immediately. Stir them occasionally for about five hours, turn off the heat, and leave them in the oven to cool overnight.

From this point, the kernels will theoretically be ready for popping but some debris such as corn silks, chaff, or cob residue can meddle with the process. You will need to rid your kernel batch of any unwanted matter by pouring it from container to container and disposing of the debris.

Kernels should be stored in an airtight container. A glass jar or plastic container can be used to store the kernels.

How Do You Perform a Pop Test?

Before throwing your batch into the pan, do a test with one or two kernels. Most cooking oils work well and kernels need around 400 – 600 degrees Fahrenheit to pop. If it sticks to the pan or has a poor pop, the kernels should be dried for a bit longer.

Many people choose homegrown popcorn over store-bought versions, as it is typically far better in just about every way. Homegrown popcorn boasts a better pop, taste, and texture while offering a guilt-free experience by being void of additives. Although it can be challenging, growing your own popcorn will be undeniably rewarding.

Learn More – Read These Articles:

Five Delicious Alternatives To Popcorn

Which Kernels Have The Least Amount Of Hulls After Popping?


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