Growing Corn From The Grocery Store In Your Garden

Popcorn from the grocery store
Image by Carmen Edenhofer

When buying popcorn and corn on the cob from the grocery store, most of us are thinking about enjoying them with dinner or a movie. But they can be grown in your own garden. Here is how to grow corn from store-bought groceries.

Popcorn from the grocery store can be planted as is right into your garden. Corn cobs should ideally be dried first. Then the kernels can be removed and planted. Watch out for hybrid corn that might not produce the results you desire, or you can buy heritage varieties.

Growing corn that you bought at the grocery store is a little trickier than growing from certified seed from a seed company. However, it can be rewarding, and it is an interesting experiment and a great way to teach children where our food comes from. Let’s look at how to grow some of that corn you bought on your last shopping spree.

Popcorn

When you eat popcorn, you are heating the kernels of corn until they burst open. These kernels come from cobs that were dried in some farmer’s field, then they were taken off the ear and end up on the grocery store shelf. When I worked at a grocery store, I often wondered what would happen if you plant the food that is on the store’s shelves. I experimented with several different grocery items, but I never tried corn knowing that the area I live in is not really suited for this heat-loving, long-season crop. After doing some research, the answer is that popcorn kernels from the grocery store will grow very well indeed.

It is important to know that if you plant popcorn, you will not get a sweet cob to eat with your summer barbecue. You will get popcorn which is a very starchy corn that is not good for eating fresh. However, you can plant it in your garden and grow it just like popcorn kernels from a seed company.

Store-bought garden seeds by Carmen Edenhofer
Image by Carmen Edenhofer

Corn On The Cob

Who doesn’t like corn on the cob? It goes perfectly with every summer dish and is great on its own. And you can grow corn on the cob that you buy from the grocery store. Here is a very interesting video of what happens when you stick a cob of corn from the store into the garden.

While this is an interesting experiment, you will have a more bountiful harvest if you dry the kernels first. When corn is grown for seed, the cobs are left on the stalk to dry in the field. When they were fully mature and mostly dry, the ears are harvested and brought inside where they are left to dry completely. Then they are stored or sold to gardeners like you to grow in the garden.

When you buy sweet corn on the cob in the grocery store, it is the same corn as above, but it is harvested when it is mature but has not started to dry. So what you need to do, is allow the corn to dry. To dry your corn, remove the husks and hang the corn in a mesh bag in a dry and warm place with good air circulation. Check the cobs periodically for any mold and remove the bad ears. It might take a couple of months, but you will have hundreds of kernels ready to plant in the spring.

Hybrid Corn

Most of the corn, whether cobs or popcorn, that you buy in grocery stores is a hybrid. Hybrid corn is the result of crossbreeding two varieties to produce enhanced desirable traits. Hybrid corn will still grow if it is planted in your garden. However, hybrid corn kernels might not grow to be the same variety as the parent plant was. So if you plant kernels from the sweetest cob you have ever eaten, the corn you grow might not live up to your expectations.

Is hybrid the same as GMO?

No! A hybrid is the result of cross-pollinating two varieties. This is something that often happens in nature, and people simply use this natural process to improve the growing or eating characteristics of their corn. GMO, or a genetically modified organism, is when genetic material from a plant or animal is added to another species. While genetic modification is also done to produce beneficial results, this is a laboratory creation that has no place in the natural world. A lot of corn entering the stores these days is the result of genetic manipulation.

Heritage Varieties

Heritage varieties, also called heirloom, are the traditional, old varieties of corn. Many of these would be the corn our grandparents grew up eating, and many of them have been around since ancient times. Unlike hybrid corn, when you plant a heritage variety that is exactly what you will grow. Here is a website that discusses many different varieties of heirloom corn.

While you probably won’t find many heritage corn cobs at a supermarket, shopping at natural food stores or farmer’s markets will often turn up a small farmer who grows a heritage variety. Not only will you be supporting a local grower, but you will be carrying on a piece of history.

Is This Corn Right For My Area?

When growing corn that you bought from the store, it is important to remember that it might not have been grown in your area, and so it might not be the best fit for your local climate.

If I buy popcorn in a grocery store here in Alberta, Canada, it was most likely grown by a corn farmer in the southern US. While this might be a great tasting variety, it probably won’t do very well in my short, cold season. Again, shopping local is the way to source the best corn for your own garden.

Even if the corn you buy might not produce the best cobs, growing corn from the grocery store is still a worthwhile experiment. And who knows, you might just end up with a bumper crop in your own backyard.

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About the Author Harry Thompson

Involved in home renovations throughout his life, Harry is an expert in everything to do with home and garden DIY. In his spare time, he enjoys cooking and tending to his garden.