Growing your own popcorn is fun and a good way to try out new varieties not easily available in your grocery store. Seeds can be purchased, or you can grow popcorn seeds pulled from ears of dried popcorn.
Popcorn seed for planting can be purchased from a seed company or harvested from your own popcorn crop in your garden. To make the best choice, you'll need to understand the varieties of popcorn.
Rounded kernels are said to be pearl-shaped (and usually are yellow), and elongated kernels are referred to as rice-shaped (and are usually white). The kernels can also be yellow, brown, calico, red or even blue, but they all pop into white popcorn. This is because the hull bursts when the endosperm inside the kernel expands as it is heated, and the endosperm is colorless, which results in white popcorn flesh.
Popcorn bursts into two distinct shapes. Some pop into mushroom shape, and others into what is termed "butterfly" shape, which is what most commercial popping corn is. The mushroom-shaped popcorn is used in popcorn balls and other commercial popcorn treats.
Popcorn germinates more slowly than sweet corn and requires somewhat warmer soil temperatures to germinate. It should be direct seeded into the garden when air and soil temperatures reach 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, it's important that the popcorn reach maturity before the first frost. Because maturity for various strains ranges from 85 to 120 days, a popcorn can be found that will grow well in most climates. Popcorn should not be grown in proximity to sweet corn; this can result in popcorn that doesn't pop well or is less flavorful.
Popcorn for popping and popcorn grown for seed should both be left on the stalk until the kernels are dry and hard and the husks are dry and brittle. The ears can then be spread on a concrete floor to dry further. Make sure that the ears are not allowed to become damp or wet, as fungus can develop, which will ruin the corn. After drying, the husks should be removed and the kernels stripped from the cob by hand. Store popcorn, whether for seed or for popping, in a sealed glass jar. Store the jars in a cool, dry place. Popcorn seed can remain viable, if stored carefully, for up to 40 years.