One of my tasks in the next week or so is to decide what G. and I are going to grow in our garden this year and to order seeds. Last year, I decided we should grow corn, and not just corn, but popcorn too.
The corn was a disaster. We weren’t sure when to pick it, so I checked with the seed company, and a woman there told me to wait until the silk peeking out was brown. But it took forever to turn brown, and by then, the corn was too old. The kernels were starchy and hard. We also lost a number of ears to worms.
The popcorn did a better. It’s OK if the kernels get hard because you dry it anyway. But picking it was extremely unpleasant. I planted heirloom popcorn that produces tiny, pink ears. Each kernel is pointed at the end and gets sharp as it dries. As I picked and shucked the corn, the kernels cut my hands. It made me angry.
Eventually, I pulled the kernels off the dried ears and stored them for the winter. The other day, I tried to make popcorn, and I nearly started a fire.
I put the kernels in my hot air popper, and at first, they came flying out, unpopped. The little, pink kernels are smaller and lighter than most commercial popcorn, and I think the force of the hot air just blew them out.
But once they got hot enough to start popping, they didn’t fly out of the popper, and instead, the popped corn began accumulating inside it. Then it started to burn, creating smoke that set off my fire alarm.
I unplugged the popper and turned off the fire alarm. I took the top off the popper and dumped out the popcorn. About half was burned. I picked out the other half and took it to work as a snack. But that was an awful lot of work for a cup or two of popcorn, especially when you consider the time that went into planting, watering and weeding it.
This year, I think we’ll pass on the corn — of all kinds — and I’ll get my popcorn at the store like everyone else.