The weather here has been normal for Las Vegas—lucky us!—unlike other parts of the country. ‘Japanese Hulless’ popcorn (top photo, below) is 7 feet tall in my garden. One of the stalks has three ears on it, the rest have one or two ears. It is probably about 15 days away from harvest (it just started to silk). We had high winds through here and some of it blew over.
‘On Deck’ (lower photo), the new dwarf sweet corn from Burpee, is 6 feet tall in my garden. I thought that by starting two different corn varieties three weeks apart I wouldn’t have a problem with cross pollination. However, I have pollen on both. Hmmm—does sweet corn cross with popcorn?
The little corn plants in flats in six-pack pots on the table will be planted this weekend in the front yard. This variety is ‘Pennsylvania Dutch Butter Flavored’ popcorn, which was a previous Organic Gardening test variety and I loved it. I have been growing it every year and sharing popcorn with friends. A curious thing is that they don’t pop it because it is not packaged for the microwave and they don’t know how to pop corn on the stove (or over a fire). So I have to pop it and give it to them in bags, ready to eat. My friends are popcorn cripples! This stuns me. —Leslie Doyle, Las Vegas, Nevada
The popcorn I started on April 9th has matured and now I am harvesting and eating it. Here in the desert It has taken just 4 months to grow it and to let it dry on the stalks. This variety is ‘Pennsylvania Dutch Butter Flavored’, an heirloom variety from Fedco that we are trialing this year. I found it to be worth the space and the time—I like it.
I have been popping some now and then since about the first of August using either canola oil or olive oil. I like the flavor of olive oil better. Next I’ll try popping it in peanut oil. I also purchased some white cheddar cheese powder from King Arthur Flour Company to sprinkle on the popped corn. I like cheesy popcorn.
Yesterday I tried popping the popcorn while still on the cob in the microwave. The problem I had was that all the kernels popped and they smashed each other—most didn’t explode off the cob. This was fun for a few minutes. I wish I knew the trick for popping on the cob—it’s annoying to have to remove the kernels from the cob first! —Leslie Doyle, Las Vegas, Nevada
I harvested the black-eyed peas today, the Italian heirloom variety ‘Fagiolino Dolico de Veneto’. They suffered badly in the heat. Guess they’ve been away from the South way too long. Ill try again in fall, but they may be a winter crop here. The beans are really small—the biggest was only 1/4 inch. I hope that means they’ll be tender.
Here’s a weird thing: I have a window planter box outside the kitchen window where I often grow greens and herbs, etc. Well, there is the absolutely most beautiful popcorn plant in it now, just starting to tassel. I doubt if it will “ear.” There probably isn’t another corn plant south of Orlando! Why is it that something that came up on its own outperforms what you bust a gut over? —Andres Mejides, Homestead, Florida
The popcorn is thriving! I started the popcorn inside on April 9 and the seedlings had rooted well enough to transplant in 2 weeks. The photo below was taken on May 18, 2011. Three weeks after transplanting, the popcorn is about 2 feet tall and looking good. Compare this with the photo in my April 25 blog entry.
This year reminds me of our cooler spring weather back in the early 1990’s. This week the temperatures have been down in the high 40’s at night and in the 60’s or 70’s during the day. For the last decade-plus I have learned to cope with hot May daytime temperatures in the 100’s. I am welcoming the return of this cooler weather cycle.
It was very windy and gusty last night and I laid in bed listening to the apricots hitting the roof all night long—like Chinese water torture. I think an emergency nap will be in order this afternoon. —Leslie Doyle, Las Vegas, Nevada
The picture below shows my popcorn and my planting helper, Sam Qadir. We just finished planting a couple of hours ago. There are 10 rows 10 feet long and I spaced them 1 foot apart. 100 corn plants in a perfect 10-foot-by-10-foot block. This has the potential of giving me a lot of popcorn—I wonder how much? Too much, maybe? No. Someone like me can never have too much popcorn.
We have had another typical nasty spring: windy, cold, hot, windy, cold . . . The ground never warmed enough to ensure the corn would sprout, so I took the safe way and poked them deep into 6-packs and stuck them on a shelf in the house until they popped up. This took only about 4 days. Then I set them outside in the sun every morning and back in every night until the winds stopped. It was 2 weeks from seed starting to transplanting—a much shorter time period than growing tomatoes, peppers, etc. I could learn to love growing corn.
This is the first time I have ever grown popcorn. If it weren’t for Organic Gardening magazine’s variety testing I might never have grown it. Now I am looking forward to popping, sharing, and telling my friends, “I grew this.”
A few garlic are growing behind the popcorn and a clump of spent daffodils is on the left. That is my ‘Wonderful’ pomegranate tree on the right. The blue garbage can stores the organic fertilizer that I blend myself. It is empty now—tomorrow is my day to blend a new batch of fertilizer, a dusty job. —Leslie Doyle, Las Vegas, Nevada