How to Harvest Popcorn
According to the Encyclopedia of Junk Food and Fast Food, popcorn has been one of the most popular snacks in the United States since the mid-1800s. It has everything going for it---it's easy to grow, easy to prepare, tastes great. When eaten without all the unhealthy additives, it's also very healthy.
One way to make sure that the popcorn you serve your family is healthy and fresh is to grow it yourself. Growing popcorn is just as easy as growing sweet corn, but the harvesting process is a little bit different.
Dry Popcorn for Storage
Pick popcorn when the stalks are dried out. If you have an accurate way to test moisture content, you can time it more precisely. The University of Wisconsin Extension Service suggests harvesting popcorn ears by hand anytime after it reaches 35% moisture and before the first hard frost.
Check to see if the popcorn is ready for harvest by stripping the husks from a sample or two. The kernels should be hard and nearly dry. If the corn appears ready, pick the corn, then strip away the dried husks.
Cure the corn in a warm dry place for four to six weeks. There are a number of methods to finish curing popcorn after harvest. The easiest way is to cover concrete floor with a canvas tarp and spread the popcorn ears in a single layer over the tarp. A popular alternative method is to place the popcorn ears in a mesh bag or nylon stockings and hang them from the rafters of a warm, dry attic or garage room.
- Pick popcorn when the stalks are dried out.
- The University of Wisconsin Extension Service suggests harvesting popcorn ears by hand anytime after it reaches 35% moisture and before the first hard frost.
Store dried ears in mesh bags hanging in a root cellar or other cool, dry place if you prefer to store the dried ears whole. Popcorn will keep for years under those conditions
Remove Popcorn Kernels from the Ears
Wearing gloves to protect your hands, grasp the ear of popcorn firmly at each end.
Twist your hands in opposite directions until the dried kernels begin to pop off. Once the kernels have started falling off, they'll come off easily.
Remove any remaining kernels by rubbing your hands up and down the ear of popcorn.
Pop immediately or store your popcorn in airtight jars until you're ready to pop it. It will remain fresh for months stored this way.
- Store dried ears in mesh bags hanging in a root cellar or other cool, dry place if you prefer to store the dried ears whole.
- Remove any remaining kernels by rubbing your hands up and down the ear of popcorn.
- Encyclopedia of Junk Food and Fast Food; Andrew F. Smith; 2006
- Alternative Field Crops Manual;P.R. Carter, D.R. Hicks, J.D. Doll, E.E. Schulte, R. Schuler, and B. Holmes;Nov 1989
- National Gardening Association
- If popcorn is too dry, it won't pop well. You can sprinkle the kernels with a little water, close the jar and let it sit for a day or two, then try again.
Deb Powers is an avid urban gardener who works with a community collective to promote sustainable urban agriculture and build partnerships between local business owners and community organizations. Powers serves as a social media and marketing consultant for local non-profits and businesses, and is collaborating with a coffee roaster to publish a cookbook highlighting coffee as a culinary ingredient.