Popcorn has been a popular snack food since the late 19th Century and, if it isn’t coated with sugar or saturated in butter, it’s a low calorie snack. A great family project is to grow and make your own healthy organic popcorn. It’s one way to get the kids keen on gardening! Popcorn doesn’t come from the same plant as sweet corn. It is a primitive variety of corn whose kernels contain air pockets. Popcorn is easy to grow, provided you can provide adequate water to maintain steady growth. You can find seeds in most online seed suppliers catalogues. I bought our first plants from a farmers market but you could try growing organic popcorn from a health food shop. Popcorn enjoys the same growing conditions as sweet corn, rich soil, water, sun and protection from frosts.
Last summer I grew strawberry popcorn with the kids. This popcorn has red kernels but when popped is a vivid white. Your popcorn will take about 4 months to reach the harvest stage. Leave the cobs on the plant until they are fully mature, otherwise your popcorn may not pop! The silks should be brown and dry. Dry them indoors for a further 14 days. Scrap the popcorn off the cob with your hands. A good job for the kids. Keep some kernels in a dry, dark place, for sowing next summer.
Popcorn can be made in any large high-sided saucepan with a lid. Add enough oil or butter to cover the bottom. Add enough popcorn kernels to cover the base of the saucepan in a single layer. Cover with the lid and shake the pan regularly to ensure even heating. Repeat shaking until all popping sounds stop. By making your own popcorn you can decide how much butter and salt is added. I unfortunately do enjoy the ‘butter lovers’ version. At least the pop corn is organic!