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Growing Popcorn Microgreens for Healthy Snacking & Salads

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Years ago — and I do mean years ago — my friend Jody raved about something she called popcorn shoots. Technically, growing seeds in small amounts of soil like this is growing microgreens (like these sunflower sprouts), but I digress. Jody just raved and I put them on my list of things to try, and then life happened.

Aside: If you live in or visit North Carolina, check out Jody’s Charlotte on the Cheap and Triangle on the Cheap.

Here’s what prompted me to finally try growing these popcorn sprouts: Chris’s post about growing microgreens and my current lack of fresh greens from the garden. And I’m here to tell you that Jody was right. Popcorn shoots are quite tasty! They’re a bit sweet and have a very subtle taste of sweet corn.

green popcorn shoots microgreens in a plastic tray

Grow Your Own Organic Popcorn Shoots

You’ll need: 

  • a recycled plastic salad container
  • potting soil
  • organic popcorn

Directions:

Fill container with about 2″ of potting soil. Make certain that the container has drainable holes to allow excess water to escape. Scatter popcorn over the soil. In this case, don’t worry about overcrowding the seeds – the wee corn sprouts don’t mind being crowded. You want the seeds to be in a pretty solid single layer on top of the soil, as pictured below.

yellow popcorn kernels planted in a plastic tray

Cover popcorn with a layer of potting soil about 1″ thick. Water thoroughly and close the plastic lid. This helps to retain moisture until the popcorn shoots sprout.

Related: Harvest Wintertime Flavor with a Windowsill Herb Garden

corn sprouts emerging from soil in a plastic tray

Related: How to Plant a Seed

Place in a sunny window, being sure to use a drainage container underneath it to capture moisture. In two or three days you’ll see tiny popcorn shoots starting to appear. At this point, you’ll want to open the lid to give the growing corn sprouts room to grow. Watch the growing popcorn shoots carefully and water as needed to keep the soil damp but not overly wet.

In another couple of days, the popcorn sprouts will be 2-3″ tall and ready to harvest. Don’t let them get much taller than that, or they’ll lose their sweetness.

To harvest, simply use scissors to snip them off at the base. And surprise! Those seeds will push out a second harvest in another couple of days. Use these popcorn shoots as you would any other microgreen: Add to salads, sandwiches, and wraps. Or do like I did and just snack on them plain.

Winter greens

You can grow microgreens year-round, but they have a special appeal during the winter months when fresh greens from the garden are a bit sparse. Other options for winter greens to consider:

Even when the garden is closed for the season, you can get your greens on!

green popcorn shoots, small and taller

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Meet the Author

Kris Bordessa

Kris Bordessa founded Attainable Sustainable as a resource for revitalizing vintage skills. Her book, Attainable Sustainable: The Lost Art of Self-Reliant Living (National Geographic) offers a collection of projects and recipes to help readers who are working their way to a more fulfilling DIY lifestyle.

14 comments… add one
  • Chris Feb 19, 2016, 7:15 am

    Those look amazing. I never thought of using popcorn for microgreens. Cheap source of seed. Not Genetically Modified. And you could share it with your chickens or rabbits if you wanted to. An all round winning idea.

  • Karla Mar 8, 2016, 8:30 am

    Popcorn micros are AMAZING! As a grower myself I highly recommend that you grow them in blackout conditions (total darkness). They turn out extremely tender, much sweeter, and are a beautiful almost neon yellow when grown this way. They make for a stunning garnish and fun addition to salads.

  • Lloyd Jul 20, 2016, 7:02 am

    I’m all for microbrews and sprouts, but eating sprouting corn and eating the shoots may not be a good choice.

    Years ago, I grew up on a farm in Upstate New York, we had dairy cows. They always wanted to get thru a fence and find a field of corn coming up. But, I was always told that the new corn shoots goes thru a stage of high concentrations of cyanide. Is this true and of the popcorn variety?

    • Kris Bordessa Jul 20, 2016, 8:21 am

      Hm. This is the first I’ve heard of this, and google isn’t pulling anything up for me in a quick search. I did fine this, though: https://www.rodalesorganiclife.com/food/foods-contain-arsenic. (If you give up sprouts, you might have to give up beer/wine, too!) If you find definitive information, please let me know!

    • Karen Harris Dec 29, 2017, 1:35 pm

      Seed corn is commonly coated with pesticide (often bright pink). Could this be the source of your concern?

  • Aura Jan 24, 2017, 7:12 pm

    We don’t have a sunny window. Will they still grow inside without the sun?
    Thank you.

  • Amy Young Miller Oct 25, 2017, 4:30 am

    yummy!! Thanks for this super-easy to follow tutorial!! I’m going to try planting some of these today!

  • Peter Logan Mar 27, 2018, 5:51 pm

    Planting kernels in soil is not what nature intended. The seeds must draw its nutrients from the soil which gives it a more earthy taste. To have sprouts that your guests will want to take home, leave them on the cob, The best corn to use is the “peaches and cream” variety, Leave the ear in its husk and freeze it for 7 days. This will trigger the seed’s hibernation, sequence for winter.Taking it from the freezer, place it upright in the sun with the husk intact. A glass with a little bit of water in the bottom for the cut end of the ear is recommended. After approx. 3 weeks, carefully pull back a section of husk to check the sprouts. When they are 2 to 3 inches long, husk the ear and harvest the sprouts. The incredible sweet taste of the corn is due to each seed getting the nutrients to grow from the natural cob which is much better for the seeds, much like the difference between powdered formula ( planting soil) and fresh mother’s milk( cob).

    • Peter Logan Mar 27, 2018, 5:57 pm

      The things I forgot to mention, The seeds that are on the cob have not been subjected to anti-rot chemicals or pesticides, since the ears are sold for human consumption. Also, since they germinate inside the husk, each sprout stays white and tender until harvested.

      • Kris Bordessa Mar 29, 2018, 6:42 am

        I’ve never heard of this, but purchasing organic popcorn will eliminate the addition of chemicals.

  • Victoria Bishop Sep 30, 2018, 7:47 am

    Will popcorn..plain…purchased at the grocer’s…sprout? In your mention of growing lentil beans, you say that “will sprout better than green lentils”, but didn’t say what the better bean was. Please let me know what color bean you intended.

    Thank you for the wonderful instructions for sprouting beans..and popcorn. I was just checking my email and saw your post. I will start some beans today and continue through winter. Also, I now plan to give some Mason Jar sprouts to friends for Christmas gifts. Like me, several friends stir fry several times a week. This will be a very novel gift. Yum.

    • Kris Bordessa Oct 17, 2018, 9:50 am

      It *might. It depends on how it’s been treated. That’s why I suggest organic popcorn.

  • Rebecca May 14, 2019, 5:49 am

    Should there be a few holes poked in the bottom of the plastic container for drainage?
    Also, how would this be different/better than sprouting these kernels in a jar in the dark (no soil) as you might do with alfalfa or clover seeds? Just curious.

    • Kris Bordessa May 16, 2019, 8:39 am

      Yes! If you’re not upcycling a container with holes, then you DO need drainage.

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