Saturday, December 05, 2015

Glass Gem Corn

Last winter, as I was in the depths of my seed-catalog survival reading, I was browsing my Pinterest feed when I saw this link to Sow & Dipity's post on Glass Gem Corn. I was transfixed. I'd seen Indian corn before, of course, but nothing like this. I desperately wanted to grow some, but the price from the original seller, Native Seeds, was pretty steep, with high demand and limited quantities. A bit more searching brought me to an E-bay seller who had good prices and good feedback, so I placed my order.

Between being very pregnant, a very wet (like, 200-year historic flood levels wet) spring, and a big garden construction project, I got my corn planted late. By the 4th of July, it had grown up to Annie's knees, but that was all you could say for it. I was worried it wouldn't have time to mature before fall came.

Three weeks later, things looked very different!

And after three more weeks, the corn plants towered above Annie, obscured the whole row of sunflowers planted behind it (oops, bad planning on my part there), and was starting to tassel.

We let the corn mature and dry on the stalks until the first frost in mid-October. Then we picked the ears, and had a big shucking party on the back deck. Everyone who grows the corn says that opening each ear is like opening another present, and it's true! It's so exciting to peel back the dried corn husks and reveal the bright colors underneath.

I planted 30 seeds and harvested 40 ears of corn from them. And look at the colors! A whole rainbow from just a tiny patch of corn.

Forget a whole rainbow from the corn patch - each individual ear of corn had so much variety that it was stunning to look at. The depth of color, the many different hues, so intensely bright and translucent - looking at it, you just have to sit back and marvel at God's creativity and wonderful gifts to us.

I brought the ears of corn inside and let them dry in a single layer for a month, and then shelled it. Final yield: 5.5 pints of popcorn for eating, another pint of damaged corn for bird seed, and a nice fat envelope of the best seed for planting next year.

Then the girls and I sorted a couple pints of seed into little jars by color. Because it was too pretty not to enjoy a little longer, especially since winter is coming on fast and the bright colors of fall are long gone.

Aaaahh! A rainbow of Glass Gem corn seed! So much fun, even if I did freeze my fingers setting it up outside to get the natural sunlight

And, finally - a rainbow in a jar. This beauty is going to be the last jar we eat, so we can enjoy the full range of color all winter long.

When I took my harvest pictures, I shared them with the Glass Gem Corn page on Facebook. They generated a fairly large response, and the comments generally fell into four groups:
  1. "Beautiful!" "I want to grow some!" and "God is amazing!"
  2. "Those are GMO. GMOs are not cool." (Or, my favorite, which has since been deleted, "GMO! GMO! God will punish you!")
  3. "It's not even GMO, thank heavens!"
  4. "Sure, it looks cool, but is it edible?"
Well, it's easy to respond to these. Yes, it is beautiful, you should grow some, and God is amazing! No, it's not genetically modified, it's been selected and bred the old fashioned way. But either way, it was still a man using the tools God has given him to grow the best corn he could, so let's stop freaking out about how that colorful corn was developed. And, yes, it is edible! 

So, pretty colors aside, how does it taste? Well, let's throw some in the popcorn pot and see!

OK, full disclosure - it didn't actually pop that well. It had a really high ratio of halfway popped kernels to fully popped ones. I think that's probably because the corn isn't quite dry enough, but it's really hard to know when it's at the perfect dryness for popping. More bad news - the kernels lose most of their color when popping, so you have to loo closely to notice it isn't just regular yellow popcorn.

The good news is that it tastes amazing. I popped it alongside standard grocery store popcorn several times, and you could always taste the difference. The freshly popped grocery popcorn tastes stale next to the crisp nutty flavor of the Glass Gem popcorn. I could always tell the difference, even when I mixed the two popcorns together in the same bowl. And the half-popped kernels still taste good - and even the girls agree. They're a lot like soynuts, and very edible as a snack.

I'll leave you with one last shot of my rainbow in a jar. Until next year, Glass Gem corn!


  1. Hi, Kara,

    Another glass gem corn aficionado here. Wow! Those are some of the best pics of glass gem I've seen..! I grew a bunch last year and thought I had some brilliant results, but... wow.

    I'm writing a (non-profit) article about this corn, and I wondered if you'd be happy for me to use one of your pics? Obviously I'd credit you and link back to the blog, and send you a link to the article when it's ready.

    Thanks :-)


  2. Gorgeous! Mine just started popping up today (no pun intended). I am sooo excited to see this and open up these ears of corn with my kids this fall. Thank you for your excellent reporting!