Corn plants are famously fast growers, so it makes sense that corn microgreens are one of the quickest you can grow. In less than a week, you can turn a handful of hard kernels into an abundance of healthy, delicious microgreens. If you haven’t tried growing microgreens yet, this is an excellent place to start.
Most microgreens taste a bit like their full-grown, green selves, and corn is no exception. It’s one of the sweetest tasting microgreens – especially if you use sweet corn seeds. All varieties should grow corn shoots about the same. You can even plant popcorn seeds, which are usually the everta subspecies of Zea mays.
These microgreens are also packed with more nutrients than the full-grown, green version. Because corn microgreens are so young, the corn shoots get all the nutrients they need directly from the seed as they grow. Mature green plants, on the other hand, are often lacking in nutrients since they only get what’s available in the soil. When you eat corn microgreens, you’ll get a healthy dose of Vitamins A, B, C, and E, iron, calcium, and even magnesium (along with the great taste!).
In this article, we’ll cover all the specifics of growing corn microgreens. Follow these steps, and your sweet tooth will be satisfied soon!
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Growing Corn Microgreens
Corn shoots need very few materials to grow, which is great for small spaces and budgets. Here’s everything you need for growing popcorn microgreens.
- Seeds: Any variety of corn or popcorn seed will do, but our favorites are these Golden Bantam corn seeds from True Leaf Market, or Double Standard from San Diego Seed Co.
- Containers: You’ll need at least two growing trays, with drainage holes
- Growing medium: We’re loving Espoma seed-starting mix for growing microgreens, but coconut coir also works well!
- Harvest shears: kitchen scissors like these are perfect
- Watering dish: a shallow container that’s slightly larger than the growing trays
- Misting bottle
- Heating mat (optional)
If you’re experienced at growing microgreens, you may have noticed something missing from this materials list. That’s right, we’ve omitted the growing light. Corn microgreens actually spend their whole lives in the dark, so a fancy light isn’t needed! This saves space, time, and money – another bonus of growing corn microgreens.
You can grow corn shoots hydroponically, but do their best work in soil. Since the seeds won’t be buried, a fine-grained soil is best so they have even footing. Seed-starting mix is an excellent choice to grow corn microgreens because of its texture and good drainage.
You need at least two growing trays per batch of microgreens. We’re going to be planting in one and using the other to block out the light. If you only have a single grow tray, you can use a lid, board, or even a thick towel to keep things dark for the microgreens.
If you’re one of those people who chew on the unpopped kernels at the bottom of the popcorn bowl, you know how tough those seeds are. When growing microgreens, we like to give the seeds a little boost by softening them in water before planting.
All you have to do is soak the kernels in cold water for 8-12 hours. You can leave them soaking for up to 24 hours, but 8-12 hours usually does the trick. Once the seeds are softened, immediately get started on planting your microgreens.
To start growing microgreens, we’ll first prep the growing tray. Fill it with a couple of inches of soil and moisten it slightly. Smooth out the surface so it’s as flat as possible. Then, scatter the corn seeds all across the soil. The kernels should be densely packed, but not on top of each other.
Give the seeds a good misting of water and cover them up with the second tray. Their new home should be completely dark, so add a towel on top if needed. If you want to speed up the germination process, you can add a heating mat underneath. Otherwise, the microgreen seeds will take 2-3 days to germinate.
It’s imperative that the corn shoots aren’t exposed to sunlight. When they are, corn shoots develop chlorophyll in the leaves and start photosynthesizing, turning the corn shoots green. This may not seem like a big deal, but exposure to light will actually turn the flavor bitter. The corn shoots will also become more fibrous and inedible, like a corn husk.
To prevent bacteria growth, we’re going to water the popcorn shoots from the bottom. Fill your watering dish with a few inches of water and set the tray inside. Let the soil take its fill through the drainage holes and then remove it. Do this whenever the soil begins to dry out, which you may check by feeling the weight of the tray.
If you were to peek under the lid, you’d see that the kernels grow thin and light yellow corn shoots. These plants are monocots, meaning they only grow a single cotyledon. The cotyledon leaves are long and flat, unfolding from a tubular stem. In fact, corn shoots kind of grow like yellow, scraggly grass leaves!
After 6-7 days of growing, your corn shoots should be 2-4 inches high with light yellow leaves. This is the perfect time to harvest, since corn shoots will get more fibrous and bitter as they age (when they grow past 4 inches). You may harvest the corn shoots all at once or stagger it, as long as you keep in the small window when the sweet flavor’s ideal. If the plant has turned green, it’s grown a bitter taste and you’ve run out of time to harvest.
Using clean, sharp shears, clip bunches of the corn shoots just above the soil level. Corn shoots won’t grow again after you cut them, so compost the used soil after you harvest.
When you’re ready to use the yellow corn shoots, rinse them well in cold water. Then, you may use your microgreens to flavor sandwiches, omelets, smoothies, salads, or literally any food (okay, maybe not ice cream).
Store unused corn shoots unwashed in a sealed container in the fridge. To help absorb extra water, place a paper towel in the container and change it as needed. With this method, your yellow corn microgreens should be good for 7-14 days.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What do corn shoots taste like?
A: Corn shoots have a sweet flavor. Typically, these somewhat taste like sweet corn.
Q: What is the biggest benefit to microgreens?
A: Microgreen sprouts have the same nutrients as the grown, mature, green plant, but in greater amounts. That’s because microgreens get their nutrition from the seed instead of soil, the latter of which is often lacking in nutrients. Also, these greens usually keep some of the flavor of the grown plant.