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Vermont Garden Journal: The Ease Of Growing Popcorn

Popcorn dates back thousands of years, is a nutritious grain and easy to grow.
Juan Monino
Popcorn dates back thousands of years, is a nutritious grain and easy to grow.

I've always shied away from growing corn. It takes up space and then there's the raccoons. I just wasn't into the electric fence and netting that other gardeners use to protect their sweet corn. Instead, I've started growing popcorn. Raccoons don't seem to care for it and it's a lot easier to grow than you'd think.

Popcorn is an ancient and nutritious grain. The oldest known popcorn dates back 5,600 years and was found in caves in New Mexico. The traditional way to eat popcorn is by cooking it over an open fire. The popped kernels are nibbled off the ear. Native Americans even made popcorn beer and popcorn soup.

Popcorn needs full sun, water, fertile soil and enough plants for proper pollination. Try varieties such as 'Robust,' 'White Cloud' and 'Strawberry.' The kernels may be different colors, but they all pop to white or pale yellow. Some will even pop into different shapes such as butterflies or mushrooms depending on the variety.

Harvest once the husks turn brown and the kernels are hard and brightly colored. Hang the husked ears in a warm, well-ventilated location to dry. The key is getting the kernel moisture to 14 percent. When exposed to hot temperatures, the moisture turns to steam and the kernels pop. If too dry or wet, it won't pop properly. Once at a "popable" stage, store kernels in glass jars in a cool, dark location.

Now for this week's tip: once gladiolus leaves turn yellow, dig up the corms, cut off the foliage and dry them. Remove the older bottom corm and store the younger top corm in mesh bags in a cool, dark basement.   

Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
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