Introduction: How to Grow Popcorn Shoots

Picture of How to Grow Popcorn Shoots

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

Picture of 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
  • Water
  • Kitchen shears

Step 2: Pre-Soaking the Popcorn Seeds

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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!

Step 8: Update - Growth After 2 Weeks

Picture of Update - Growth After 2 Weeks

Step 9: References

Picture of References

Below are a few references for growing popcorn shoots.


Johnny's Select Seeds


38ren made it! (author)2017-04-05

Not all of them are fast growers, but the ones I had grew extremely fast. Also, the molding was definitely a problem so I poked a couple of holes in the lid. Definitely don't have enough for a recipe that's for sure :) But these were so easy I'll grow them again

Thanks again for the instructions


mtairymd (author)38ren2017-04-09

Thanks. That's interesting that only a few took off. Yeah, my wife was worried about the mold as well. I'm not sure if the refrigeration helped (step 2) but we didn't encounter any mold. We also removed the top after a few days of growth.

38ren (author)mtairymd2017-04-25

Of course climate most likely plays a factor here. I'll be experimenting further in the future, but I'm glad you didn't have the same problem, mold can be annoying!

38ren (author)2017-03-11

Very interesting instructable, I had never heard of popcorn shoots before reading this :)

I do have a question if you don't mind answering; I noticed you used white popcorn kernels. Is this a requirement or will generic un-popped yellow kernels work as well?

Thanks so much for this well documented instructable, when mine grow I will be sure to post a picture ;D

mtairymd (author)38ren2017-03-12

Thanks. Either type should work. BTW, I cross posted this on another site and received a lot of comments/questions from people more knowledgeable than me. Check it out for more info.

38ren (author)mtairymd2017-03-13

Thanks, will check this out.

SherylinRM (author)2017-01-24

Nice, I like this thanks :)

Voted for you :)

mtairymd (author)SherylinRM2017-01-25

Thank you!

mrsmerwin (author)2017-01-17

I had no idea that the plant was edible.

I think that most grocery store corn, including pop corn, is subsidized so if you try to grow it all the way to seed, there is no way to predict what you would get.

Ranasp (author)mrsmerwin2017-01-23

The neat thing about corn is that it breeds true, and it's very obvious when it's crossed with another type of corn (as long as their coloration is different.) Each strand of silk goes to the body of the corn, and when the silk gets a bit of pollen on it that specific kernel forms. That is why you sometimes have dead zones on an ear of corn, (they didn't get fertilized) or you end up with different colors on an ear (unless you have a type of corn that's multicolored). Apples, on the other hand, are a complete crapshoot as to what you'll get when planted from seed, even seeds from the same apple will make wildly different types of apple.

DaviDBCoe (author)mrsmerwin2017-01-17

If the seeds have a Monsanto Patent, and you grow them to maturity, what you might get is a Lawsuit (which is partially true & partially snark). I know that is not a nice thing to say, but it was the first thing that "Popped" into my head!
BTW - I think I'll try growing the shoots, too! And it might work just as well with bird seed such as Black Oil Sunflower, Millet, and so forth.

mrsmerwin (author)DaviDBCoe2017-01-17

Are those plants edible too? I had a field biology class in college and I know some plants are not recommended eating. I was amazed by how many plants are edible. I know things like milkweed is poisonous unless prepared properly.

Cayotica (author)mrsmerwin2017-01-18

i agree, the old adage of "it's great to eat but you got to know how to cook it" especially applies to plants, there are many plants that are poisonous when raw but perfectly safe to eat after you cook the poison out, cashews are one I know of? Another I'm told are acorns,you have to boil them in three changes of water before they are safe.

mrsmerwin (author)Cayotica2017-01-18

Three changes of water is the same thing that Dr. G told us for the milk weed buds in field bio. On the last day of class we had a group meal where we were each assigned food from the nature area to bring. I still like the boiled coattails--with butter it is a little like corn on the cob. Coattails pollen can be used a little like corn meal and baked into muffins.

I hope you mean CATTAILS (the water plant) , not coattails! lol

I have been sitting in the hospital with my sick and using my tablet to keep myself from going nuts. I have been having a lot of trouble with not having a real keyboard.

Mick Gibson (author)mrsmerwin2017-01-18

Milk weed sap was a shampoo about 300 years ago!

mrsmerwin (author)Mick Gibson2017-01-18

really! Did not know that. Dr. G did show us soap root which he claimed is still used in some places to clean fine art work. Wow, it is amazing what is coming back to me even after all these years.

mtairymd (author)mrsmerwin2017-01-17

The corn shoots are edible and yes, it is very important to know what parts of plants are edible.

mtairymd (author)DaviDBCoe2017-01-17

I don't think growing the hybridized popcorn to maturity will be productive because corn needs to mature all at the same exact time to get fully filled out ears. There would be differences in the maturity because the popcorn seed would have different genetics.

Good luck spouting the sunflower seeds!

mtairymd (author)mrsmerwin2017-01-17

Yep. Its hybridized corn so it will not grow 'true to seed.'

mrsmerwin (author)mrsmerwin2017-01-17

sometimes I hate auto correct. That should say hybridized. Yes I probably spelled it wrong.

JacobR4 (author)2017-01-20

Neat idea!

bmiller91 (author)2017-01-17

Forum truths: ;-)

1) Any discussion on Windows will devolve in to Linux vs. Windows debate

2) Any discussion on growing plants will devolve in to GMO, chemical, patent debate

mtairymd (author)bmiller912017-01-17

My next project will involve pallets. That topic seems to bring out forum truths as well :).

rabidpotatochip (author)mtairymd2017-01-19

Which is odd, because everyone knows that recycled, non-GMO pallets run Linux best.

It's fine if using common 2-way pallets but good luck finding drivers for 4-way or CP3 pallets.

strick (author)bmiller912017-01-18

How do I "Like" this? Is there a "Like" button?

mtairymd (author)strick2017-01-18

Hit the heart button at the top. There is also a vote button :)

Wetfoot (author)2017-01-17

Ummmm, & another item to note, that if you have a corn plant, & even if it is not gmo, the bees that create the reproduction functions are responsible for the pollination of the flower, so it might have gotten pollen from a gmo, patented plant, therfore, unless companies like Monsanto can keep the bees which pollenate their crops, from intermingling with other crops, then they would not have a case, ...

mhuey3 (author)Wetfoot2017-01-18

Corn is not insect pollenated. Corn is a wind pollenated plant.

Cayotica (author)mhuey32017-01-19

really? What about wheat? Why do those mega bee ? keepers travel all over America.?

mhuey3 (author)Cayotica2017-01-19

The most essential staple food crops on the planet, like corn, wheat, rice, soybeans and sorghum, need no insect help at all; they are wind-pollinated or self-pollinating. Many of the most desirable and common non-hybrid crops, like heirloom tomatoes, are self-pollinated, which is what makes their cultivar stable.

Cayotica (author)Wetfoot2017-01-19

tell that to the little independent farmer that have been sued into foreclosure by big seed companies when their "patented" crops start showing up on local farms. I don't care if it's GMO no one should be able to patent a food source.

FrenchDavid50. (author)2017-01-18

After I started soaking my corn kernels I discovered they already had the root nub. Well its not like a warm water bath is likely to do much harm so I'll keep going with the soaking process. Plus I don't have any of the other materials really together yet. By the way, I love this idea because I've got an itch to grow something but I'm in the middle of a Midwestern winter.

mtairymd (author)2017-01-17

I just checked the price of these online...$67 for 4 ozs...ouch!

cherittfn (author)mtairymd2017-01-17

You are looking in the wrong place. Popcorn around here are $2.99 for 2 lbs.

mtairymd (author)cherittfn2017-01-18

Not popcorn - popcorn shoots - see link

Cayotica (author)cherittfn2017-01-18

I think he was talking about the shoots not the popping corn kernels.

Wetfoot (author)2017-01-17

Ummmm, did you know that all types/varieties/species of corn will pop? If done properly, ...

Cayotica (author)Wetfoot2017-01-18

only popping corn (yep its a real thing) has the right amount of moisture for a successful pop. There are only a handful of commercial pop corn seeds available, there a many types of heirloom popping corns but they are usually expensive and hard to find.

gnu2d2 (author)2017-01-17

There are lots of varieties of corn. This isn't the same variety as the corn you're buying on a cob and eating. That's most likely one of many sweet corn varieties. The kernals look very different.

pmandryk (author)2017-01-17

Excellent job. Here's an easy and tasty recipe from Grant "The King of Random" to make your own popcorn form these kernels.

TXLoneStar (author)2017-01-17

I have to say, using that container to grow the sprouts as a green house is a great idea. cheap and reusable :D

mtairymd (author)TXLoneStar2017-01-17

The container works really well. I plan to use it for lots of other shoot/sprouting for the next few months.

porcupinemamma (author)2017-01-17

Wow! Very cool! Thanks for posting MT.

mtairymd (author)porcupinemamma2017-01-17

Your Welcome! This was a fun project.

bryan3141 (author)2017-01-17

will the shoots regrow if I keep them moist or are the plants not hardy enough to take pruning every couple weeks? Would the second growth (if any) be as tender as the first growth?

mtairymd (author)bryan31412017-01-17

The shoots do not grow back because the entire top just got cut off. But, there are so many seeds sprouting at different times in the tray that there are more to cut.

gravityisweak (author)2017-01-16

Wow I had no idea you could do this. Does this also mean you could grow a full corn plant this way too? I'm guessing popping corn is very different than the typical corn we eat.

About This Instructable




Bio: I like to design and build random things.
More by mtairymd:Wooden Marble Roller MachineOliver String PuzzleBurr Puzzle
Add instructable to: