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There’s nothing quite like experiencing the festivities and food – especially the fragrance – of fresh popped corn. Whether buttered and salted, kettle, or as caramelized balls, popcorn is always devoured.
While you might not think of racing off to the nearest carnival, why not try growing a “cornival” in your own backyard?  No, we’re not talking ticket booths or entertaining rides, but something that’s definitely not only delightful but d-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s.

It’s fun to harvest one of the most cherished comfort foods, popcorn. Watch a movie as a big bowl of your own freshly popped kernels fills the air with an intoxicating fragrance.

Archeological findings have documented traces of popcorn in Peruvian tombs dating back 1,000 years.
Despite its instant popularity, it’s likely the Iroquois started it all here in North America.

Unfortunately the story of popcorn at the first Thanksgiving feast is as fictitious and full of air as a bag of microwaved corn.

The writings of French explorers recorded that the Iroquois popped tough corn kernels in heated, sand-filled pottery jars. As the nations of the Iroquois Confederacy spread through the Great Lakes region, it is likely that settlers in Vermont, Quebec and upstate New York took up this technique.

By the mid-1800s, families popped corn at home; mass consumption began in the late 1890s after Charles Cretors built the first popping machine. Many improvements led to superior steam popping. Consumption really catapulted once this corn could be had from horse-drawn wagons.

Unfortunately, today most people get their popped corn (some million pounds per year in the US) from the microwave. We have no idea what we’re missing until we plant our own popping corn.

This sensational snack is also quite nutritious as a whole grain that’s high in fiber and natural simple carbohydrates that quickly (albeit briefly) raise serotonin levels, leaving one relaxed with a mood lift.
So, aside from the superior taste, what better reason is there to grow your own?

From snowy white, brilliant yellow, and opalescent blue, to crimson red and multicolored rainbow ears, you’ll not be able to resist the multitude of colorful offerings. Some wonderful varieties are: Glass Gem, Heirloom Strawberry, Heirloom, Carousel, Shaman’s Blue, Snow Puff, and finally, Robust Yellow Hulles Hybrid.

Propagate your own popcorn the same way you would sweet corn except allow the ears to fully mature and harvest popcorn after the husks turn fully amber and dry.

The only thing not to do is simultaneously plant sweet and popping-type corn in your garden. Readily cross-pollinating, you’ll get the worst of both varieties when you go to pop the kernels: many unpopped kernels and tough sweet corn.

With that said, why not pop out and put in some popping corn so you can soon have some popped corn to grin about from ear to ear?

Seed sources

Victory Seeds

Strawberry. Glass Gem, as well a few other heirlooms

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Glass Gem, Strawberry, Dakota Black and Mini Blue

The Heirloom Popcorn Company

Many varieties, including Carousel

 

Recipe: Perfect stovetop popcorn

Tip: To store popped corn, place in a zip-type freezer bag and put in the freezer. Since popped corn doesn’t freeze, you can eat it immediately or warm kernels in a closed paper sack on the microwave “high” setting for about 1 minute.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons cooking type olive oil

1/2 cup fresh popcorn kernels, plus 3 to 4 extra kernels

Instructions

In a large heavy-lidded pot, pour in oil and heat to medium high. Drop in extra kernels and put the lid on. When they pop, remove pot and lid (strain out popped kernels) then pour in ½ cup kernels, swishing them to get them all equally coated with oil. Replace lid and put pot back on heat. With lid slightly ajar (allows extra steam to escape), shake pot about every half- minute so kernels don’t burn and unpopped kernels cycle to the bottom to pop. When popping ceases, remove pot from heat and pour popped corn into a large bowl.

Toppings

  • Season to taste with sea salt or other toppings such as:
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon Trader Joe’s Chile Lime Sprinkle
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon mixed with 2 tablespoons coconut sugar
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 tablespoon matcha tea powder and sea salt to taste
  • 1 package spiced cider mix

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