It might sound corny, but there is surely nothing better than curling up in front of a good movie with a big bowl of popcorn.
Salty, sweet, or smothered in butter, popcorn is the ultimate comfort food, and one of the most popular snacks around.
Even better, this beloved snack can actually be good for us. As a whole grain, it’s high in fiber. It’s also high in simple carbohydrates, which can quickly (and briefly) raise serotonin levels, helping you to relax and improving your mood.
Just remember to lay off the extra salt and fat and to air pop your corn if you’re planning to consume it for health reasons!
So, what better reason to have a “pop” at growing your very own mood-boosting corn in your backyard?
From beautiful, bright yellow kernels, to multicolored rainbow corn, there is surely a variety that will pique your interest.
Read on to find out about the best varieties of popcorn that you can grow at home!
Some Things to Know Before You Grow
Growing your own popcorn is really no different than growing regular sweet corn. Plant and grow these seeds in your garden as you would any other kind of corn, allow the ears to fully mature, and wait to harvest until the husks turn brown. After that, snack to your heart’s content!
However, there is one thing to be aware of: It is not advisable to grow both popcorn and sweet corn in the same garden.
This is because these two plants will readily cross pollinate, resulting in the worst of both worlds – popcorn yields with a high percentage of unpopped kernels, and poor quality sweet corn.
If you decide that sweet corn is more your thing, don’t miss our roundup of the best varieties! You can always switch to popcorn next year.
This plant matures in about 100 days, so you’ll have plenty of time after planting to decide on the perfect movie to pair with your harvest. Each ear yields approximately one serving of popcorn, with each plant producing one or two ears.
The Best 7 Varieties of Popcorn
I personally have a real penchant for rainbow colored veggies. From tomatoes to chard, I am absolutely addicted to all multicolored edible crops that you can grow in your garden, and this variety is a perfect addition to any colorful collection.
Though this heirloom is often referred to as an ornamental cultivar, it is in fact edible. Producing vividly multicolored mini ears 4 to 5 inches long, this sweet-tasting cultivar is ready in 100-110 days. Grow it in full sun, in USDA Hardiness Zones 3-11.
The cobs can then either be dried and displayed for ornamental use, or popped. This variety is perfect for snacking, as its tiny kernels pop up to be tender and crispy, with a very thin hull. Dried kernels can also be ground into cornmeal.
2. Glass Gem
The first time I saw and then planted this crop, I fell irrevocably in love with it.
Continuing the multicolored theme, this variety has to be the undisputed king of rainbow crops, producing beautiful kernels that come in a range of translucent, multi-colored shades of blue, yellow, red, and everything in between. ‘Glass Gem’ is really something that has to be seen to be believed, so it’s hard to do it justice here.
This particular variety was selected by Oklahoma farmer Carl Barnes, who began growing heirloom Native American varieties as a way to reconnect with his heritage.
The ears and stalks can be dried for ornamental use, and I’d suggest growing this visually arresting crop would be a great way to get the kids interested in gardening. The kernels are perfect for popping or for grinding into cornmeal.
‘Glass Gem’ takes 80 days to reach maturity, and you can grow it in Zones 3-11. It thrives in warm, full sun conditions.
You can find seeds at Burpee.
3. Heirloom Popcorn
This somewhat uninventively named cultivar is an heirloom variety that has been traced back to ancient Native American tribes.
This cultivar preserves perfectly, so you can keep enjoying your corn all throughout the cold winter months.
Bright yellow 8-inch ears take 100 days to reach full maturity, and this plant needs full sun exposure to thrive.
Seeds are available from Eden Brothers.
4. Heirloom Strawberry
This heirloom variety is described by Burpee as a “pop star,” and I have to say I can’t disagree there (and thoroughly approve of their pun).
Producing several miniature ears between 2 and 3 inches long and filled with ruby red kernels, this beautiful, decorative variety looks just like large red strawberries.
This variety is ready to harvest in about 100 days.
Seeds are available from Burpee.
5. Robust Yellow Hulles Hybrid
Thanks to thin hulls, which make for easy popping, this Native American corn is known for its tasty, exploding kernels, perfectly adapted for making delicious popcorn.
When grown in full sun, this is a highly productive variety that produces long ears of corn on tall stalks. Expect about 110 days to maturity.
You can find seeds at True Leaf Market.
6. Shaman’s Blue
A winner in both the looks and taste categories, this unique blue hybrid is a perfect popper, producing large, white, sweet popcorn.
And it gets better. This variety is highly nutritious, thanks to the fact that its dark blue kernels contain more antioxidants (namely anthocyanin and cyanidin) than your regular yellow varieties.
This variety originated in the Andes Mountains of Peru where it was traditionally ground into flour. Now it is grown widely in Mexico and the Southwestern US, where it has become enormously popular thanks to its disease resistance and top-notch flour quality.
This variety will grow happily in hardiness zones 3-12, and grows best in full sun.
You can find ‘Shaman’s Blue’ seeds at Amazon.
7. Snow Puff
This F1 hybrid produces high yields of delicious, sweet, white corn, which expands to an enormous size when popped – perfect for movie nights. The kernels have exceptionally thin hulls.
This is variety grows 8-inch ears on 7-foot-tall stalks, and it requires full sun to thrive.
You can find this variety on Amazon.
Time to Get Popping!
With such beautiful varieties to choose from, I think it’s safe to conclude that growing your own popcorn is sure to leave you grinning from ear to ear!
Have you had a go at growing this tasty snack? Let me know how you got on in the comments section below!
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© Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Product photos via True Leaf Market, Eden Brothers Nursery, Burpee, thepowerofplants, and Go Garden. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock. With additional writing and editing by Allison Sidhu.
About Natasha Foote
With a passion for soil health and growing trees, Natasha Foote is a biologist who was hit with a serious case of green fingers, and decided to swap sterile laboratories for getting her hands dirty in the soil. Formerly a farmer and researcher working with the agroforestry project Mazi Farm in Greece, when she wasn't working on the farm, she was busy studying soil biology under the microscope. Now, you can find her in the south of France where, in between enjoying all the fresh peaches, plums, apricots, and cherries that the area has to offer, she's working on various agricultural projects whilst writing about all things green.