How to Grow Your Own Popcorn

By George and Becky Lohmiller
August 30, 2016

Growing your own popcorn is almost as much fun as eating it. Simply follow our tips below.

Planting and Harvesting

  • Plant seed popcorn in four or five short rows about 36 inches apart to ensure pollination. Plant corn seeds one inch deep and six inches apart.
  • When the plants are five inches tall, thin them to 12 inches apart.
  • Fertilize lightly in midsummer just before a rain to give them an added boost.
  • When the stalks are about knee-high, hill them up six inches by scraping soil from between the rows. Hilling adds nutrients and support to the growing plants.
  • Let the husks that cover the ears turn brown before harvesting. If you can press your thumbnail into a kernel, it’s not ripe yet.
  • Harvest all ears before the first hard frost. Shuck the ears and let them dry for a few weeks, then shell the kernels and store them in airtight containers in the refrigerator.
  • Now, just pop and enjoy! A whole quart of popcorn has less than 100 calories, so even waist watchers can afford a dribble of melted butter.

The Science of Popping Corn

What causes these tiny grains to pop and expand to 30 or 40 times its original size?

  • Popcorn kernels have a hard outer shell that surrounds a large amount of starch with a moist central germ.
  • When the kernel is heated, the moisture turns to steam, which softens the starch, causing it to expand and press against the inside of the shell.
  • When the pressure is great enough, BOOM!—the kernel explodes and literally turns inside out.

Popcorn’s Place in History

Historians doubt that turkey was served at the first Thanksgiving dinner, but they know that popcorn was there. Quandequina, the brother of Chief Massasoit, brought a deerskin sack filled with popcorn to the feast. Popcorn, already a staple for Native Americans, became an important food for the colonists. It stored well and could be popped fresh all winter long to serve with meat, float on soups, and mix with maple syrup for popcorn balls.



Reader Comments

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I am just about to start a

I am just about to start a popcorn business but intend to grow corns on my own. Excited about it.. Now I need a popcorn making machine..

Growing popcorn

The first time I planted popcorn, I just bought a big bag of unpopped popcorn (NOT mocrowave), soaked it in water overnight, then planted it as one would sweet corn. Followed my Dad's instructions once it sprang up. Had a buttery taste to it once popped without adding butter, popped it in oil. A funny story, I was talking with a patient about growing popcorn, when one of my co-workers heard what we were talking about....... she said, "You mean you can GROW popcorn?!" We asked her, "Where do you think it comes from?" Yep, and she claimed to be a country girl.

popcorn seeds (open polinated variety)

Good morning to you.
I tried to get the online sellers of seed that you gave to Martin but did not get through. I live in Guyana and would like to have some of the open pollinated variety seeds. Can you help?
Thanks Mitford.

Thanks guys!!! If this whim

Thanks guys!!! If this whim takes off next yr. & I have any luck, ill send ya a sample bag!! THANKS AGAIN!! The "dog' !!!

I was recently given an

I was recently given an opportunity to grow anything I want to.I have an acre or 2, to work with. I was just wondering if there is any opportunity to make any money, growing popcorn, on that amount of land!!I will appreciate any help or advice, good or bad! I live in York pa. but the land is in Bedford pa. my nephew owns 150 acres! THANKS from a very recently retired Harley Davidson worker!! Looking for a hobby!!

Hi, Martin: Congratulations

The Editors's picture

Hi, Martin: Congratulations on your retirement and on thinking outside-the-box (popcorn box, that is). We can help you with the growing advice above, but the economics of the whole thing are very much location- and equipment-specific. Hopefully there are some commercial growers who wouldn't mind a little competition and can share a few kernels of wisdom here. For one thing, you'll need to figure out how to service your rows -- perhaps from your hog (and we don't mean the oinking kind)? Anyway, good luck! And feel free to send us a little taste test bag!

Thanks a lot guys,&I hope

Thanks a lot guys,&I hope when you say, servicing the rows ,you mean mounding them. I am really a first timer!!Thanking you again!!! I will be starting this venture early next year. Do you guys know of any local or any reputal planting seed sellers! thanks from a real beginner!!! Dave

Hi Martin, Just follow our

The Editors's picture

Hi Martin,
Just follow our planting and care tips above when you get started. Here are a couple of online heirloom (open-pollinated) seed sellers.

Can you pop corn kernels

Can you pop corn kernels while it's still on a dried cobb?

We understand that the Native

The Editors's picture

We understand that the Native Americans would roast a cob of corn on a skewer over a fire and just gather up the kernels that flew off. Normally, folks let the husks dry on the stalk until they're brown, pick the ears, and then rub or twist the kernels right off. You can also pick the ears, then remove the husks, and dry out the kernels off the stalk.

Yes Bruce, you can pop corn

Yes Bruce, you can pop corn kernels on the cob. There are places that sell popcorn on the cob. We put ours in a paper bag to pop in the microwave. I don't remember the exact time, however, and have never tried it with home grown popcorn. Good Luck!