Heirloom Popcorn: Cherokee Long Ear

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Our favorite popcorn is a pretty, heirloom variety called Cherokee Long Ear. The ears are gorgeous and the popped corn has a delightful nutty flavor that is delicious with just a sprinkle of salt. The variety was developed by members of the Cherokee Nation, likely from corn acquired through trade with other native groups. It is still grown today, thanks to the work of dedicated conservationists, and is loved by gardeners across the country. Cherokee Long Ear popcorn is prolific and relatively easy to grow, perhaps because it was developed in America before the use of heavy machinery and chemical fertilizers. The naturally tight husks protect the ears from pests, and the short stalks don’t make much demand on the land.

The hardest part of growing popcorn is the waiting…we pick the dried ears of corn in late October. Then, we wait. Oh, how we wait! After picking, the kernels have to dry even more before they will pop. The beautiful ears sit on rack near our wood stove, begging to be eaten – a cozy treat during the darkest days of winter. We know…we know…they they won’t be dry enough to pop until February or March, and yet we always attempt at test batch (which always fails) around the winter Solstice. When we’re brave enough to try again in early spring, we are rewarded with the yummiest, prettiest snack that also makes is feel great because we are helping preserve a bit of delicious history.

We’ll have bags of popcorn at the Zionsville Farmers’ Market starting on Saturday, May 16.

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The waiting!! Failed popping from New Year’s Eve (left). Success on March 4! (right)

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