Blue Popcorn Harvest

As most of you know by now, I planted two varieties of popcorn this year. The first, a miniature blue, was planted on the 12th of September, while the strawberry mini wasn’t planted until over a month later.

This meant that I was ready to harvest the Miniature Blue popcorn long before the strawberry. I picked my first cob on the 27th of Feb, and the popcorn harvest was well under way by the 3rd of March. This means the plants took 5 1/2 months from planting day to harvest- far longer than the 100 days suggested.

I suspect that despite the plant being designed as a popcorn, the ‘100 day’ harvest guide is when the corn would be ready to eat fresh. Next year, maybe we’ll experiment with eating some fresh, but this year I went very by the book, and waited.

So, for those of you interested in harvesting popcorn, (or saving seed from any corn varieties) here’s how you do it. Basically, you leave the corn out there for a long time. Ideally, the whole stalk, as well as the husk of the corn ear will be dry and brown when you harvest. Of course, plenty of things can interfere with this – mostly rain. If your ears start moulding at all, or the stalks start feeling soft and pithy rather than dry, cut your losses, pick your corn, and lay it on trays to dry inside.

My husks were dry when I harvested the mini blue popcorn, but being the nervous sort, I carefully peeled back each husk and laid them on wire racks to air and cure for a further two weeks before I started stripping the ears. A few ears were damaged on top, or had a caterpillar or slater living in them, but all in all, most of them were clean and lovely.

Stripping the corn involves removing the seeds from the ears. Apparently this can easily be accomplished with a twisting motion, but that really didn’t work for me. I ended up pushing the seeds off with my thumb a dozen or so at a time. It was a slow and boring task, accomplished in front of a movie. If anyone has a better way, I am all ears! (And yes, I just made a corn pun. That’s as good as it gets around here.)

miniature blue popcorn harvest
Harvested miniature blue popcorn, and a few spare cobs to pop whole!

Complaints aside, the only real problem I had with the popcorn harvest was that some of my corn wasn’t miniature. Or blue. Yeah. You read that right. The handful of tall popcorn plants I’d been watching weren’t tall because of sunlight, or nutrients, or anything like that. I’m pretty sure now that those seeds were pollinated by a different corn. I’m not positive, but my best guess would be that they were pollinated by Damien’s Immali Corn. He is breeding it as a sweet corn, so I am very interested in what these cobs would taste like fresh, as well as if their seeds pop. As you can see the cobs look gorgeous, and actually took out first prize at the Red Hill show.

However, my dilemma is that these plants quite possibly pollinated a number of the corn cobs that look like regular miniature blue popcorn. A huge percentage of cobs could be contaminated. I have to decide which type I want to save. I can realistically only do one: I don’t have the space or time to do both.

The miniature blue is a beautiful corn, and I averaged 3-4 cobs per plant with the tight spacing I used. I only had a half dozen plants get to 5 ears, but likewise, it was very rare for any of the plants to have only 2 ears. The larger blue and white corn was higher yielding. Aside from the sheer size difference, each plant also had more ears, with two having 7! A few of the cobs looked pretty weird I must admit, but if I decide to continue with it I guess it’s something I would select against.

Weird looking popcorn harvest, two cobs
Some unusual quirks in the popcorn harvest.

Wanna read more about growing popcorn? Check out Chapter One (Growing Popcorn and Wives Tales), Chapter Two (White Fly in the Home Popcorn Planting) and Chapter Three (Popcorn Updates).

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