The Strawberry Popcorn Harvest
Just the other day I mentioned that we still had the dry stalks of our sweet corn standing in the garden to act as a decoy. My hope was to lure any corn-loving critters (raccoons? crows? squirrels?) away from Tiegan's popcorn until it was ready to harvest.
Well, here's what I saw on the way to the chicken coop for an egg this morning:
One stalk and several ears of popcorn had been shredded up by some hungry animal or another. On second thought, maybe it wasn't all that hungry, or maybe Fletch interrupted its feast, because it left behind several ears that were only partially gnawed:
Time to harvest the popcorn before losing any more to whatever is eating it! In my experience, once an animal gets a taste for something in your garden, it's all over. They'll be back every day (or night) until there's nothing left.
This is Tiegan's corn, by the way. We gave her a four foot square patch in which to grow her heirloom seeds of strawberry popcorn back in late May or early June. She planted late to try to keep our corn varieties from cross-pollinating. The hope was that hers would tassel much later than the sweet corn and thereby keep their genes from mixing.
That seems to have worked, but the drawback to that plan is that strawberry popcorn takes a good long while to mature, especially when you are supposed to let it dry in place on the stalk. Our current dry, but not hot, weather has left us about halfway to the goal of dried ears. Some are definitely ready, with a dried husk and a stem that snapped right off:
Others look good, but aren't quite ready to be twisted off, because their stalks are still green and pliable:
Still, with something determined to feast on the ears, it was time to pick them all. Better to have at least some that are ready than to end up with none because we allowed them all to be eaten up. We're hoping that the ones that are still varying shades of green will be able to dry on the porch just as well:
And yes, I kept the least-chewed ears to dry. There's still plenty of good corn on them!
By the way, strawberry popcorn is a really beautiful decorative plant. Look at two of the mature ears Tiegan brought into the house to decorate the dining room table:
Although the ear on the right is long and lean like a typical corn cob, the one on the left is more typical of this variety. Strawberry popcorn is stubby and red, and if you use your imagination you can see a plump, ripe strawberry instead of corn on the cob.
Once the corn is dry enough to flake off of the cob, it should be ready for popping. In the meantime, we will enjoy how pretty it is around the house, perhaps on the mantel as well as the dining table.