The decision to garden in the winter is an easy one to make. It requires very little time, space and materials to grow tasty salad greens. While reading the seed catalogs, I came across growing shoots, specifically popcorn shoots. So, off to the local farm supply store I went. I snagged a bag of seed starting mix to start the process of growing shoots.
Besides the seed starting mix, all ingredients were on hand. The popcorn came from the kitchen pantry. There were leftover aluminum casserole trays with plastic covers from the holidays. I used an extra storage container to pre-soak the popcorn seeds for a few days.
This is a great project to start over a very long snowy weekend. As for time to harvest, after the pre-soaking period, it takes 10 to 14 days to get shoots 2 to 4 inches long. The shoots are simply snipped off at the base when they have grown to the length you want. I plan to use them in stir fry dishes and salads of course.
This is such an easy crop to grow, even in the winter!
Step 1: Materials
The materials are as follows:
- Fresh Popcorn, i.e. not 3 years old (unpopped, not the microwavable kind)
- Flat Casserole Tray or other container with sides less than 2" deep
- Small Container
- Potting Soil
- Kitchen shears
Step 2: Pre-Soaking the Popcorn Seeds
In order to ensure a better germination rate, pre-soak the popcorn for 24-72 hours. I put approximately 3/4 cup of popcorn seeds in a glass dish and covered them generously with water. Place the container in the fridge for up to three days.
Step 3: Check for Sprouting
When you can see the nub of the root sprouting out of the majority of popcorn seed, they are ready to plant.
Step 4: Planting
Start by pouring off and discarding the soaking water. Pour 3-4 cups seed starting mix into a large mixing bowl. Add enough water to the mix so that it feels like a dampened but not soaking towel. Place enough seed starting mix in the casserole container to cover the bottom of the container about an inch deep. Gently firm and smooth out the mix. Spread the pre-sprouted popcorn seeds on the moistened seed starting mix and carefully press the seeds into the mix. They should be on top of the mix and not overcrowded.
Step 5: Place Cover on Top
Cover the newly planted seeds with the clear lid provided with the tray/casserole container. The covering creates a steady, moist environment ideal for sprouting seeds.
Growers Note: An option for blanched shoots would be to cover the lid with a cloth. Some folks like yellow blanched shoots.
Step 6: Care
Place the popcorn in a brightly lit window and wait. Check the container every day to ensure that the seeds are still moist. If needed, water the shoots by misting with fresh water. If mold starts to develop, just leave the lid off for a day. This will allow the surface of the seed starting mix to dry out a little. If your house stays dry during the winter, mold should not be an issue. If the lid is not fitted tight to the container, the shoots will lift the plastic lid up as they grow. It will take anywhere from 7 to 14 days to reach harvest. The popcorn shoots are ready to harvest when they are 2 to 4 inches long.
Step 7: Harvest
From the pictures, you will notice that the seed germination rate is different. Some shoots will take longer to reach the desired length, which provides a longer harvest. For reference, this picture was taken seven days after planting.
To harvest your popcorn shoots, simply cut each shoot as far down the stalk as possible. Once picked, if you do not use the shoots immediately, dry off any water and wrap them before placing in a container the vegetable crisper.
Enjoy your crisp fresh greens!