The Q&A Archives: Harvesting popcorn

Question: I have a great crop of popcorn that's ready to harvest. How do I harvest and store it so it will pop when cooked? Greg Alexander Mountain View, CA

Answer: Harvest popcorn when the kernels are full, firm and begin to dry on the ear -- 50 to 60 days after tasseling and silking, advises Dennis Pittenger, horticulturist at the University of California at Riverside. After harvest, remove the husks and place the ears in mesh bags in a garage or any dry place with good air circulation and warm temperatures for about one month. If the kernels begin to rot, the air is too stagnant. When you can rub your finger over the ear with a little pressure and the kernels fall off, it's time to remove the kernels from the cob. Or try popping a sample batch. If they pop poorly, either the ear was immature when you harvested or the kernels need to dry more. Store the properly dried kernels in a glass jar in the refrigerator. Varieties of popcorn that grow well in California are White Cloud and Peppy Hybrid, notes Pittenger.

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