To celebrate Independence Day, Lamberton-area farmers Ryan and Tiffany Batalden decided to try cooking up an new tradition for the area: Patriot Pops organic popcorn....
Holidays like the Fourth of July and Christmas hold their own food traditions: hot dogs and watermelon, fruitcake and candy canes, etc.
To celebrate Independence Day, Lamberton-area farmers Ryan and Tiffany Batalden decided to try cooking up an new tradition for the area: Patriot Pops organic popcorn.
"We used to get all these seed catalogs with different colored popcorns," said Tiffany last week.
"We tried growing red, white, and blue popcorn a couple years ago, but didn't think much of it.
"Then people told us we needed to try different varieties that grow here (in southwestern Minnesota), and were really happy with it."
On their Lamberton-area farm, the Bataldens raise certified-organic beans, corn, radish, and buckwheat.
In 2012 the Bataldens planted an acre of the multicolored popcorn varieties, and got a 55 bushel yield — nearly 3,500 lbs of multicolored popcorn.
While the kernels are different colors in the bag, they all pop up white. However, the different colors have slightly different tastes and textures, adding to their appeal.
"The red kernels pop up smaller and less fluffy, with a distinct nutty flavor," said Tiffany.
The certified-organic corn was planted at Ryan's parents' farm a few miles south of Lamberton.
"We had to plant the popcorn fields between regular corn crops because popcorn is more fragile," said Tiffany. "We hoped it would hold up against the wind better."
Popcorn's harvesting is also more delicate than conventional sweet or field corn.
"We have to harvest it at about 18 percent moisture. Unlike field corn, popcorn can lose several points of moisture in a day, so we had to monitor it very carefully," said Tiffany. "Twelve or 13 percent moisture is optimal for popping."
Despite not costing much more to raise than conventional corns, popcorn isn't common in Minnesota due to the short growing season.
"Popcorn has a 110 day maturity, which is pushing it in our area," said Tiffany. The next crop is due to be harvested in late October.
The finished popcorn was bagged in a licensed kitchen in Walnut Grove.
"We keep the hulls on because that's where all the nutrition is, all the antioxidants and vitamins," said Tiffany."
Patriot Pops popcorn is currently being sold in gift shops, coops, farmers markets, and specialty stores across Minnesota.
"We found a deli in the Twin Cities and described our popcorn to the owner," said Tiffany. "He said, 'Send me a case,' and has been selling it there."
Ryan, originally from Lamberton, graduated from Red Rock Central High School, while Tiffany grew up in north Minneapolis. They met at the U. of M. in Duluth, and moved to the Twin Cities, where Ryan worked as a magazine editor.
"He didn't like working in an office, so we moved back to Lamberton," Tiffany said. "I had never been on a farm before we got married, but this is a really fabulous place to raise our three kids."
This year the Bataldens planted four acres of popcorn, one each of red, blue, white — and green.
"We found a green variety, so we can sell red and green popcorn for Christmas," said Tiffany.