To grow corn for popping or to use as cornmeal is one of the easiest things to do in your garden. Plant as you would sweet corn, on blocks rather than in rows. Add a little piece of fish or fish emulsion the hole before you add the seed. All corn is pollinated by wind, so when you see the tassels form give your stalks a little shake each day to help get fuller ears.
Then just wait.
Dry corn, also called field or ornamental corn, is left on the stalk to dry. Hold off harvesting until the plants begin to turn brown. The longer they are allowed to dry, the easier it is to get the seeds off. For this reason you can also use them first as a fall decoration, as well as using the stalks. When the time comes to remove the seeds, we have found giving the cob a twist or snapping it in into two pieces helps a lot. Then just push the seeds off with your thumbs. Store in a clean food-safe jar.
Popcorn seeds are generally pointier than those recommended for grinding, and you’ll get more corn to pop if you choose a variety recommended for that purpose. To grind corn, just use a good coffee grinder. A coarse grind can be made into grits or hominy, and a finer grind into cornmeal or corn flour. We grew Cherokee White Eagle that made a beautiful purplish cornmeal. Let me tell you, those muffins were quite a hit at our Thanksgiving dinner.
Note that cornstarch is made using a totally different process, but corn flour can often substitute for it.
Here are a few varieties to consider, their color and what they are recommended for:
Grow Corn for Cornmeal and Grits:
Bedwell’s Supreme White Dent; white
Wade’s White Eagle; mixed
Grow Corn for Cornmeal:
Cherokee White Eagle; blue
Strubbes Orange; orange
Nothstine Dent; yellow
Bloody Butcher; red
Black Mexican Sweet Corn; gray to black
Pencil Cob Dent; white
Grow Corn for Corn Flour:
Jersey Peterson Blue; blue
Tennessee Red Cob; red
Grow Corn for Popping:
Cherokee Long Ear; mixed
Dakota Black; reddish black
Strawberry Popcorn; red
Red Beauty; red
Gardening Jones is a Pennsylvania-based master gardener. Read her other Horticulture posts here and learn more at gardeningjones.com/.
Grow corn as part of a Three Sisters garden with seeds from Renee’s Garden.
Master growing any kind of vegetable with The Veggie Gardener’s Answer Book.
Browse all discount edible-gardening resources and tools at GardenersHub.com.