Thursday, 5 December 2013

Grow your own popcorn

We enjoy the occasional snack of popcorn, drizzled with honey, a healthy snack being low in calories, high in fibre, iron and protein. Popcorn is also rich in vitamins B and E, magnesium, thiamine, riboflavin and phosphorous. So why not try growing our own next Spring. We have prepared a bed by adding well rotted manure and which will rot down over winter. 

Popcorn is made from a variety of corn whose kernels contain air pockets. When the dried kernels are heated these air pockets expand and the seed pop open. You can expect to get about a kilogram of popcorn from each plant so a small block of 6-8 plants is plenty, as a third of a cup produces an ample serving.

Popcorn is grown in the same way as sweetcorn. It needs a position in full sun and a well draining soil. If you are growing other varieties of sweetcorn then allow at least a month between sowing's because they cross pollinate. We will sow our popcorn in early March, germination takes about 10-12 days and popcorn matures in about 4 months. Sow 2 seeds at 3 cm deep and  space the 35 cm apart in blocks to assist wind pollination. 

When seedlings have developed their second set of leaves thin to leave the strongest plant. When the plants reach 50 cm earth up around their base to about 15 cm to encourage root formation and to provide support against wind damage. Popcorn requires regular watering until the cobs mature

Popcorn cobs remain on their plants until fully mature but as soon as their tassels start to turn brown it's best to net them to discourage hungry birds. The husks can be left on the plants until they are completely dried by the sun. Apparently you know when they are dry enough when it becomes difficult to twist a cob with a hand on each end. 

Once completely dried the kernels can be removed by rubbing two cobs together over a large bowl. Discard any kernels which are broken or dis-coloured. 

The kernels should be placed in a plastic container and frozen for two days to kill any bugs that may be in the seeds. After freezing the popcorn will keep for several years if kept sealed in a jar in a dark cool area. Cook as required and sow some saved seed every year to replenish your stocks.

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