'Chapalote' Popcorn

'Chapalote' Popcorn

Regular price $5.00 Sale

Zea mays subsp. mays

Origin: Northern Mexico

Improvement Status: Landrace

Seeds per packet: ~130

Germination tested 1/2024: 85%

Life cycle: Annual

Also called "pinole maiz," this brown popcorn is considered to be one of the oldest forms of domesticated corn still in existence. It has long been maintained by indigenous peoples in northern Mexico, and was once widely grown from southern Arizona to Sinaloa, Mexico. When we first grew chapalote a decade ago, we found that some plants seemed to be highly susceptible to the fungus known to most US farmers as "corn smut", but known to most all Mexicans as the edible delicacy "huitlacoche" (sometimes known in English as "Mexican truffle"). This fungus (Ustilago maydis) causes individual corn kernels to swell up and essentially turn into mushrooms! Individual kernels can balloon to a hundred times their initial size, full of black spores. It may sound unappetizing, but it's really quite delicious (especially when cooked with some onions and garlic and Oaxaca cheese, then folded into a thick corn-flour tortilla!).

When our great friend Joe Kiefer — of Triple Oaks Nursery in Franklinville, NJ — asked us if we knew of any varieties good for producing huitlacoche, this was the first one that came to mind. When Joe grew it out, he did indeed get some nice huitlacoche on quite a few ears — but he also got plenty of good seed! And we're very pleased to be making that seed available to you now. You can read much more about this special corn in this essay from Gary Nabhan, co-founder of Native Seeds/SEARCH, our original source for seeds over a decade ago.

GROWING TIPS: Direct-sow after all danger of frost has passed. Plant seeds an inch deep and 10-14 inches apart.