Plant a Family Ballpark Snacking Garden on Home Turf

Load the bases with garden grown popcorn, peanuts, and sunflower seeds and bat a grand slam homerun of healthy ballpark snacks for the family dugout.

Whether you are off to Little League, heading to a Major League game, or watching the game at home, munch on healthy snacks grown in the family ballpark snacking garden.

Instead of buying overpriced and over processed ballpark food, plant homegrown popcorn, peanuts, and sunflowers seeds.

Popcorn Up to Bat

Delight children by including them in sowing and harvesting popcorn. After danger of frost is past, plant popcorn in a sunny, well-composted infield with good drainage. A soil pH of 6.0 is recommended. Poke seed 1 inch deep in rows or hills.

Popcorn needs 1 inch of water per week. Since it requires abundant nitrogen, add composted manure throughout the growing season. Next year plan to plant popcorn where nitrogen-fixing peanuts have grown.

Popcorn on the Bench

Keep ears on the stalk until kernels are firm and dry. When you pick the ears, peel back the husks and hang them to cure in a dry well-ventilated area for about two weeks.

Kernels may remain on ears until needed for use. If you remove kernels, store them in a covered container in a cool dry place.

If stored kernels fail to pop, they may be too dry. Add a few drops of water to the container, cover, and try again in a few days. Kernels can absorb moisture to reverse dryness.

Popcorn’s Starting Line Up

Seed catalogs offer an interesting starting lineup of heirloom and hybrid popcorn in many sizes and colors, e.g., red, purple, black, maroon, yellow, calico. No matter how colorful on the cob, all kernels pop white.

A few of the cultivars are listed below:

  • Calico
  • Cherokee Long Ear
  • Dakota Black
  • Japanese Hulless
  • Ladyfinger
  • Strawberry
  • Tom Thumb
  • White Cloud

The Peanut Gallery

The familiar chant by vendors, ‘Peanuts, Popcorn, and Crackerjack®’ has been heard at ballparks for decades. But in recent years some ballparks have banned peanuts on the premises because of the number of fans allergic to the legume.

When you watch the game on TV at home, crunch on garden grown peanuts.

Peanut seeds take 85-100 days to mature so don’t expect a popping party until the World Series. Sow seeds 2 inches deep, in shells or without, in a deep friable soil with plenty of composted manure. Peanuts prefer sandy soils and a slightly acidic soil with a pH range of 5.8-6.5. Seeds sprout in 2 weeks. Yellow flowers appear in 30-40 days.

The entire family will marvel at the unique way peanuts set their pods. After flowers are fertilized, they start to wither. The withering flower becomes a stalk-like peg sending its tip down into the soil burying the developing fruit. Peanuts form and ripen in clusters underground.

In fall dig up one plant to test if the peanuts are mature. Soft, pale and squishy nuts are not ripe. As shells ripen, they become dry, dark and hard. A yellow vine is a sign of ripening.

To harvest dig up the entire plant letting the peanuts dry on the plant by hanging in the sun for several days.

Then remove the sundried peanuts and roast them in their shells in an oven set at 325° for 15-20 minutes. Taste test!

There are four main types of peanuts: Valencia, Spanish, runner, and Virginia. Southern Exposure Seed Exchange has a large selection of peanut seed. Once you grow a crop, save some seeds for next year’s ballpark snacking garden.

Sunflowers Step Up to the Plate

The easiest of the trio of ballpark snacks to grow is the sunflower. The best snacking seeds are from ‘Mammoth Russian,’ and ‘Peredovik.’ These sunflowers will be giants towering 9-10 feet tall with heads a foot or more across.

Sunflowers will grow anywhere in the United States. North Dakota farmers boast the largest commercial crop and most of these sunflower seeds are sold at baseball game concession stands.

Plant seeds 1 inch deep in a sunny location after the last frost. Maturity takes 85-100 days. Consider planting giant sunflowers in rows as a fence or along a fence.

Harvest heads in fall before the birds do. Suspend seed heads in a well-ventilated area to cure for several weeks. Drying enhances the nutty flavor. Then rub seeds from heads and store in airtight jars.

During the seventh-inning stretch, fill your fists with homegrown concession stand garden snacks of popcorn, peanuts, and sunflower seeds.

Sources

  • Bubel, Nancy. 52 Weekend Garden Projects. Emmaus: Rodale Press, 1992.
  • Eames-Sheavly, Marcia. The Great American Peanut. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University, 1994.
  • Editors. “Grow Your Own Popcorn,” Mother Earth News, January/February 1979 website.
  • Pleasant, Barbara. “Grow Great Goobers, Anywhere,” Mother Earth News, December 2002/January 2003 website.

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