Growing Popcorn Shoots
Popcorn shoots are a microgreen variety increasing in popularity. As you might have guessed from their name, they grow from the seeds that a lot people use for popcorn. The shoots are useful for ingredients and garnishing dishes, as they are golden yellow and have a unique, super sweet flavor. After selecting the right seeds to grow at home, we suggest soaking them before planting. Then, using a burlap medium, plant your seeds in a 10 x 20 tray designed for growing microgreens, keep the burlap moist, and cover your shoots with a humidity dome or place in a black garbage bag.
Selecting your Seeds
- Use your popcorn kernels from the kitchen cabinets. Yes, you can grow them! There are more specialized popcorn seeds that are meant for shoot production, but your standard popcorn seeds will grow shoots too. The seeds meant for movie night will taste just like the popcorn snack you’re used to, with an added sweetness that lingers in your mouth.
- Purchase seeds specifically for shoot productions. These seeds come in separate colors, although you’re more likely to find that the white and yellow seeds work better than the red variety. Do a fast online search for popcorn seeds or visit a nearby health store to see if they carry them.
- To help establish the correct amount of seeds to use, spread dry seeds into the bottom of an empty 10 x 20 tray. They should be evenly, but densely, spread. As a rule of thumb, use 2-3 cups for a 10 x 20 tray.
Sprouting the Seeds
- Soak the seeds for 8-12 hrs. Place the seeds you’ll be germinating in a plastic kitchen container. Fill the container with enough water to rise above the seeds, ¾” to 1”. The seeds will swell as they absorb water, and you’ll want to be sure they stay below the water line. As they soak, keep the seeds out of direct light.
Planting your Seeds
- Choose a growing medium. Keep in mind that your medium’s job is to hold your shoot in place and provide them with water and nutrients. Soil is a traditional example, and may be the easiest to work with for most first time growers. Burlap comes in 10” rolls and can be cut to size of tray. Before placing the burlap mat in the tray PRE-SOAK THEM in a tub of water. This helps them lay flat in the trays, which makes planting a lot easier and helps give the seeds a germination boost. Plan to soak the mats the day before you plant.
- Spread seeds evenly on top of the wet medium. If you have issues with mold or fungus growing between your shoots, use fewer seeds the next time around and cut back how often you water them.
Growing the Shoots
- Cover the seeded tray. Use a cover that will be lightweight but impermeable to light. Keep the tray indoors with little or no light and a constant temperature.
- Water your shoots lightly. Keeping the medium moist will likely require a little amounts of watering. Use a spray bottle, and make sure to spray each sprouting shoot each time you water. Once roots set, focus on keeping the medium moist. This no longer requires spraying every shoot. Pour water in from the sides to avoid damaging the young shoots.
- Harvest your shoots when they’re 2-4 inches tall. Once shoots are dry to touch, simply cut the shoots just above the growing medium’s surface. Store shoots in a sealed container in your refrigerator.
The bright color and popcorn flavor adds to almost any dish. They can also be enjoyed in a salad with grilled sweet corn, cherry tomatoes and lola rosa lettuce.
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