Popcorn is one of my children’s favorite snacks and was at the top of my list of new crops to try in 2019. Before making any new additions to our garden plans, I thoroughly research each variety available and obsess over the optimal seed spacing and growing conditions needed. There are many interesting varieties of popcorn available, some are huge towering plants with full sized ears, some are tiny. The kernels of popcorn can be white, black, yellow, red, or multicolored and big, small, or even mushroom shaped. I was overwhelmed by the many options for growing popcorn! After ridiculous hours of corn research I chose Strawberry Popcorn, and I’m pretty happy with our experience with this crop. But not everything I read about this tiny little corn was true so I felt the need to write my own review with pros and cons from my experience.
Growing Strawberry Popcorn
Strawberry popcorn is petite in ear size, kernel size, and stalk height. Each kernel planted produces a 4-5 foot multi-stalked corn plant. Their diminutive stature makes them an ideal crop for small vegetable gardens or ornamental plantings. Even though they are small, these plants are very productive. Ours produced 3-4 ears per plant with each ear measuring 2-4” long.
I planted our Strawberry popcorn in an eighteen foot square of double rows. The seeds were quick to germinate and the plants grew rapidly. They were bushier than most corn with many plants producing multiple stalks. Their short bushy nature is probably why they have no problem with lodging (falling over in high winds).
The stature of these little grasses also made them quite aesthetically pleasing. I imagine they would be a fine accent in mixed borders or fantastic included in huge Summer planters.
Decorating with Strawberry Popcorn
However lovely it is while growing, Strawberry Popcorn is even more beautiful after it has been harvested. It dries to a dark garnet color with pointed little kernels. I made a wreath out of some of the ears with husks still attached, and hung a garland made from it above our fireplace. This tiny eared corn makes such fabulous fall decor, it’s ornamental value might be it’s greatest asset.
Popping and Grinding Strawberry Popcorn
When we have movie nights in our house, the air-popper usually gets used to make fluffy popcorn. When I was researching Strawberry Popcorn I found a blog post that said it could be popped just like any other popcorn in an air-popper. They lied! The blogger that wrote this was apparently making an assumption, and had obviously never actually popped these tiny kernels. The light weight corn just blew right out of the popper before it had a chance to pop. I tried several times and discovered one way that it would work; I had to hold the air popper tilted backwards at a 45 degree angle until the kernels got hot enough to pop. I used an oven mitt to keep from burning my hand, but it was still most unpleasant. The conclusion of my painful Strawberry Popcorn trial was that the best way to safely pop this corn is the old fashioned way, in a heavy pot with lid.
Regardless of how you manage to pop it, the flavor is great. It is popcorn that actually has flavor, slightly nutty and rich. But, alas, we were not blown away by the texture of these tiny little puffs. They were a bit tougher than ideal. Not bad, just not the perfect airy snack we had hoped for. So, we decided to try this corn out in other ways.
Strawberry popcorn is a actually a very versatile grain. Like other flint corn, it can be ground into flour, cornmeal or polenta. We had our grinder out for making grits from our Tennessee Red Cob corn, so we decided to grind part of our popcorn. It took twice as long to grind than the softer dent corn, but the resulting polenta and cornmeal was beautiful! I was amazed that this hard popcorn polenta took almost an hour to cook. However, the wait was worth the deliciousness as it was rich and full of corn flavor. The cornbread made from our pop-cornmeal was also incredible, possibly the best I’ve ever made. I would not grow this crop for use as popcorn again, but I just might consider growing it for cornmeal and polenta.
Overall I was pleased with this crop. It was super easy, productive, fun for the kids, pretty, and quite delicious (in an unexpected form). I definitely think it would be perfect for gardeners with very limited space that want to grow corn. I’m not sure yet if we will grow it again. I guess I will decide after we use up all of the beautiful garnet speckled polenta and cornmeal this winter.