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Connecticut Garden Journal
Connecticut Garden Journal is a weekly program hosted by horticulturalist Charlie Nardozzi. Each week, Charlie focuses on a topic relevant to both new and experienced gardeners, including pruning lilac bushes, growing blight-free tomatoes, groundcovers, sunflowers, bulbs, pests, and more.

Connecticut Garden Journal: Making Your Own Popcorn

Camilo Rueda López flickr.com/photos/kozumel
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Popcorn is not just that buttery, salty snack you buy at movie theaters. It's actually an ancient and nutritious grain.

The oldest known popcorn dates back 5600 years and was found in caves in New Mexico. Some actually still popped when cooked.

Popcorn is native to the Americas. The traditional way to eat popcorn is by cooking it on the cob over an open fire. The popped kernels are nibbled off the ear. Native Americans even made popcorn beer and popcorn soup. Today, we're the larger growers and consumers of popcorn, eating about 70 quarts of popcorn each in one year.

Like corn, popcorn needs full sun, water, fertile soil and enough plants for proper pollination. Look for varieties such as 'Robust', 'White Cloud' and 'Strawberry'. The kernels may be different colors, but they all pop to white. However, some will pop into different shapes, such as butterflies or mushrooms, depending on the variety.

Harvest once the husks turn brown and the kernels are hard and brightly colored. Hang the husked ears in a warm, well-ventilated location to dry. Check periodically to see if they're dry enough by doing test pops.

Credit jacqueline flickr.com/photos/sweetbeetandgreenbean / Creative Commons
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The key is getting the kernel moisture to about 14 percent moisture. When exposed to hot temperatures, the moisture turns to steam, and the kernel pops. If it's too dry or wet, it won't pop properly.

You can also place cleaned kernels in the oven and slowly dry them at 200 degree temperature overnight with the oven door left ajar. Once at the “popable” stage, store popcorn kernels in glass jars in a cool, dark location.

Next week on the Connecticut Garden Journal, I'll be talking about small bulbs. Until then, I'll be seeing you in the garden.

Charlie Nardozzi is a regional Emmy® Award winning garden writer, speaker, radio, and television personality. He has worked for more than 30 years bringing expert information to home gardeners.

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