This section is from the book "The Standard Cyclopedia Of Horticulture Vol2", by L. H. Bailey. See also: Western Garden Book: More than 8,000 Plants - The Right Plants for Your Climate - Tips from Western Garden Experts.
Fig. 1058. Pop-corn is characterized by the excessive proportion of the corneous endosperm and the small size of the kernel and ear. The kernel split laterally shows the chit and corneous matter enveloping, and in some cases a fine, starchy line. The small size of the kernel and the property of popping makes identification certain. This species-group extends throughout North and South America and has claims for prehistoric culture.
The preparation of the ground recommended for sweet corn holds for pop-corn. Tillage should be started early in the spring to conserve as much of the soil-moisture as possible, thus protecting the crop against possible injury from drought later in the season.
On good clean ground the pop-corn is very often drilled, dropping the kernels 6 to 8 inches apart in the row. More often, however, it is check-rowed with the rows 3 feet 4 inches apart and from four to six kernels in the hill. The ordinary corn-planters are used with special plates for pop-corn planting. For dwarf varieties of pop-corn such as the Tom Thumb, when planted in home gardens and tilled by hand, the hills may be as near together as 2 1/2 feet.
Pop-corn is much slower in germinating than field corn and the plant is not so vigorous a grower. Shallow cultivation is recommended just as for other corns, especially for the later cultivations, since deep cultivating cuts too many roots.
Pop-corn is planted earlier than field corn. It should be planted deep enough to reach the moist soil, usually 1 1/2 to 2 inches, but in a dry season it may need to go 3 inches deep.
The White Rice, which is grown more extensively for market than any other variety, mixes with field corns readily. The resulting hybrid types have larger ears and larger, smoother kernels and give heavier yields than do the pure pop-corns. These hybrid types were for a time quite in favor with the commercial growers because of their greater yield. Now they are being discriminated against by the buyers because of their inferior popping qualities, and the tendency among the growers is to get back to the pure types, even though they give smaller yields.
Pop-corn matures earlier than field corn. For this reason in many sections of the country it is regarded as a surer crop. In the region about Odebolt, Iowa, where pop-corn is grown more extensively than in any other district in the world, harvesting sometimes begins as early as the middle of September, but more often it is delayed till the first of October or later to let the corn dry on the stalk. There are two methods of harvesting. One is to snap the corn and pile it in the crib, then shuck it during the winter. However, this is not generally practised because it makes more work and takes more crib room. The other and common method is to pick and shuck the ears from the standing stalks directly into the wagon, the same as with field corn.
On account of the heavy expense of hand-picking, some are now using the harvesting apparatus called the corn-picker and husker. Opinions differ as to the economy of using this picker. The rows should be long and the corn should stand up well to justify its use. For hand-picking the price per bushel usually ranges from 10 to 12 cents. A good hand can pick about forty bushels in a ten-hour day if the corn is good.
It is very important that the pop-corn be thoroughly dried. After it is picked it is placed in the crib which usually has ventilators through the center. These extend along the middle of the floor, are slatted to admit air, and are about 1 1/2 feet wide by 2 1/2 feet high. The corn is usually left in the crib through the winter season. Sometimes it is marketed on the cob. Formerly it was a common practice to ship it on the cob in sacks, but now it is generally held over winter in the crib, shelled the next spring, and shipped in two-bushel sacks. It is usually marketed from June to September. It is ready to use for popping just as soon as it is dry enough. It can be popped immediately after it is gathered if the season is dry and the corn is allowed to dry sufficiently in the field. Usually it is left on the stalk till it is so dry that it shells some when thrown into the wagon.
Various companies make a practice of contracting for a certain number of acres of pop-corn at a certain price in the spring of the year, so that the farmer may know just what price he will get for his corn in the fall or at some stated time at which it is to be delivered. The contracting firm does not as a rule supply the seed but does specify the grade of the corn and objects to the coarse hybrid types.
The prices for. corn in the ear are ruling from 1 cent to 2 cents a pound; for shelled corn from 1 1/2 cents to 3 cents a pound. Pop-corn is considered a very profitable crop and less likely to fail than field corn because it matures earlier. A good return to the acre would be twenty to twenty-five bushels of ear corn, worth from $20 to $50, averaging about $30. Field corn in the same region averages about fifty-five bushels, worth usually from $20 to $25 an acre.
In 1899, Sturtevant described twenty-five varieties of pop-corn. Tracy, in his "American Varieties of Vegetables for the Years 1901 and 1902," enumerated fifty-four varieties. The rice pop-corns are generally used for commercial plantings. White Rice is now the leading commercial variety of pop-corn, since it gives the greatest yield and also brings the highest price on the market. In the noted region about Odebolt, Iowa, this variety is grown almost exclusively. The following list includes the leading varieties:
Ear 4 to 8 inches long. This vigorous, late variety is widely cultivated. With other rice corns, it is characterized by deep, tapering, beaked kernels.
Ear 4 to 8 inches long. Matures somewhat earlier than Rice and later than Dwarf Golden. Kernels round and silvery white.
Ear 1 to 3 inches long. An early-maturing sort, with broad, golden yellow kernels. A favorite garden variety.
Ear 2 to 2 1/2 inches long. An ornamental variety for home gardens. The stalks only grow to a height of about 20 inches. The kernels are bright and golden yellow.
Other kinds of pop-corn worthy of mention are Golden Queen, Silver Lace, and California Yellow.
S. A. Beach.