November 11, 2013

That's Entertainment! Or, Garden Series, Part IX: Corn

The past week was full of entertainment!

I went to a play reading, started one of those free trial months on Netflix (turns out it still isn't for me), went to see Thor: The Dark World, and watched the Broncos defeat the Chargers.  I had popcorn more than once and decided that you all might like to see about growing and making your own popcorn.  It's fun!

I decided that growing regular corn does not really work in my garden.  It takes up too much space to get a reasonable amount and there is about a one-day window to harvest and eat it in the proper stage, if you choose to grow an heirloom variety, which I do.  Popcorn varieties, on the other hand, tend to be a little smaller and you just leave them out there until the stalks start to dry out.  And say a little prayer that the squirrels don't figure out how to peel back the husks (hint: don't help them by checking the ears of corn).

I grow a variety called "Strawberry Popcorn" - named for its brilliant red kernel color.  It's an heirloom variety and the seeds save very well.  It grows to about four feet and each stalk produces two small ears and the kernels pop up small and bright white.  This year, I gave regular eating corn another chance, but had I given over the space I had for corn to just popcorn, I think I would have had a decent stock for winter.  The eating corn I grew is "Rainbow Inca" (shown below) and is quite pretty.  It has an honest corn flavor, but goes to starch about two days before I try it every year ("dent" stage, as can be seen by the dents in the tops of the kernels).  Very gummy.

Popcorn is such an entertainment food!  It can serve the needs of a variety of dietary restrictions and almost everyone loves it.  Today is not so much a recipe - it's pretty basic, but a reminder to give it a try and dream up possibilities with it.  I like the standard buttered and salted popcorn, but also love adding jalapeño powder, chocolate drizzle, or dried fruit.  I have a friend who adds a milder chili powder and truffle oil to great results. Pets also like popcorn, which to their delight inevitably gets dropped on the floor during snacking.

  • 3 parts popcorn kernels
  • 1 part oil or fat of choice - plain vegetable, olive oil, or combination with flavored oils
  • Salt to taste
  • Extras! (see suggestions below)
Place oil and kernels in a popcorn maker (I have a super-seventies one with a butter drip container built into the lid), plug in, and allow to pop.  Unplug the maker when the popping subsides.  I have never actually made popcorn on the stovetop, but I found great instructions here.

  • melted butter and salt
  • jalapeño powder, chili powder, chili spice blends
  • melted chocolate, drizzled over top and allowed to harden
  • nuts and dried fruit
  • mini pretzels and peanuts
  • paprika and minced fresh herbs
  • cumin and/or garam masala
  • grated parmesan or other hard cheese
  • toasted sesame seeds and/or nori strips
  • za'atar
  • caramel corn (I have not attempted this yet, but I do love it)
  • mix into homemade granola-nut bars (an idea I have for an upcoming post)

Any special additions that you like?  Please, please, please, put them in the comments - I love collecting new ideas!  Now go make popcorn and be entertained!

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