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Everyone's always looking for the next great thing, and Glass Gem corn is it! These beauties almost look Photoshopped—they're so mind-blowing! But they are real, they are easy to grow, and nowadays the seeds are also readily available for purchase.
The harvesting of corn is often seen as the harbinger of the fall season. You know when you start seeing dried "Indian corn" for sale that summer is on the way out, and autumn is on the way in. There's something very warm and comforting about beautifully colored corn as the weather begins to turn chilly and leaves begin to fall. It's a memory of summer with a nod toward winter, and it just feels like fall.
Glass Gem corn can easily be dried for decoration, popped for popcorn, cooked into hominy, or ground to a beautiful cornmeal. On top of that, the story behind Glass Gem corn is pretty amazing.
A Brief History of Glass Gem Corn
The amazing story of Glass Gem corn starts with two men with a dedication to preserving and bringing back ancient Native American corn varieties.
Carl Barnes (Oklahoma) was interested in his Native American heritage and began to gather corn seeds that used to grow in the area a long time ago. After harvesting them, he began to notice traits in the corn that resembled long-lost local Native American corn varieties. By breeding for these traits, Barnes developed a range of different heritage corns and was able to return them to their original local stewards.
Barnes eventually met fellow corn revival enthusiast, Greg Schoen from New Mexico, who began to interbreed his own local Native American corns with Barnes' rainbow corn varieties. In 2008, Schoen dispersed the first Glass Gem corn seeds into the world. They were sent to India, Israel, Kenya, Mexico, and the US to whoever was interested in growing them.
In 2012 a photo of Glass Gem corn went viral, and that was it—the market for Glass Gem corn seeds skyrocketed. Now they are grown all over the world and are super affordable for most gardeners. (A pack of 50 seeds is roughly USD $3.) Talk about an amazing comeback!
How to Grow and Harvest Glass Gem Corn
How to Plant Glass Gem Corn
Greg Schoen, the botanist who ultimately created the Glass Gem corn varieties, recommends growing them in rows that are 30 inches apart. In each row, leave a gap of 6-12 inches. He says that you can also cluster 3-4 seeds in a hole, and leave a gap between clusters of 3-4 feet. Plant in the spring when the soil reaches at least 60 °F / 15.5 °C. Plant in full sun and ensure the area is protected from wind. Corn will begin to grow in a week or two.
How to Grow Glass Gem Corn
Corn does better without being waterlogged. It's recommended you only provide them with about an inch of water per week. At the end of its growing season, the corn stalks and husks will begin to dry out and turn brown.
How to Harvest Glass Gem Corn
Wait until the husks are dry and brown to harvest. To remove husks from the stalk, twist the husk while pulling downward in one fluid movement. This will release the husk from the stalk.
How to Dry and Preserve Glass Gem Corn Cobs
Since Glass Gem corn is a type of flint corn, it will naturally begin to dry while still on its stalk. After harvesting, peel the husks back from the corn cobs. Either cut the husks off or leave them on for decoration.
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Raise a large screen or cooling/drying rack off of the ground so that air can flow around and beneath the corn cobs. Spread the corn cobs out on the drying rack, turning them once a day to ensure even drying.
After a week, gently press your fingernail into a Glass Gem corn kernel. When fully dried, the kernels will be "hard as flint."
In this completely dried state, Glass Gem corn can last for many years. It can be used to grow more Glass Gem corn next year, popped for popcorn, ground for cornmeal, cooked for hominy, or used ornamentally.
How to Cook Glass Gem Corn
Glass Gem corn is considered a popcorn, which is a subcategory of flint corn. Flint corn has, appropriately, a tough outer shell that is said to be "hard as flint." In other words, it's not a corn you eat right off the cob. It will need to be processed before consumption. Ensure you first dry the corn kernels until they're hard before processing them for food.
Glass Gem Popcorn
- In a large pot with a lid, heat 3 Tbsp. coconut oil until a test piece of popcorn pops.
- When the oil's properly heated, add 1/3 cup of dried Glass Gem corn kernels.
- Put the lid on, remove from heat for 30 seconds.
- Return to heat and repeat process every 30 seconds until popcorn pops. Add butter and salt to taste.
Glass Gem Cornmeal
- Place the dried corn kernels in a blender. Start with the slowest speed and work your way up to the fastest speed. Keep blending until the desired cornmeal texture is reached.
- Store in a sealed container in the fridge. Stores for around a year.
Glass Gem Hominy
- Fill a large stock pot no more than 3/4 of the way with water. You'll need a ratio of 2 parts water to every 1 part dried Glass Gem corn.
- Sprinkle baking soda into the water, using a ratio of 2 Tbsp. for each quart (4 cups) of dried corn.
- Stir and bring to a boil. Boil for 30 minutes, then turn off the heat and let sit for another 20 minutes.
- Drain the corn kernels in a colander and rinse with hot water for a couple of minutes, then fill the pot with cold water and return corn kernels to the pot.
- Gently begin to pull the hulls off all the Glass Gem corn kernels. Repeat this process until all the corn kernels are hulled.
- Use hominy immediately or store it in the fridge for up to 4 days.
Beautiful Glass Gem Corn
Sources and Further Reading
- Andress, E. L. (2005, June). Hominy Without Lye. Retrieved October 9, 2018, from https://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/uga/hominy_without_lye.html
- Gardeninggirl1107. (2013, July 29). Beautiful Glass Gem Corn Harvest (video). Retrieved October 9, 2018, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YuQt6NH1l6M
- Mogul, W. (2015). Glass Gem Corn. Retrieved October 9, 2018, from https://www.nativeseeds.org/learn/seed-diaries/380-glass-gem-corn
- Native Seeds. (2015). Glass Gem. Retrieved October 9, 2018, from https://shop.nativeseeds.org/products/zp103
- Santa Fe Public Radio. (2018, June 04). Greg Schoen, Botanist, on Breeding Glass Gem Corn. Retrieved October 9, 2018, from https://farmersmarketinstitute.org/ksfr/ksfrs-garden-journal-radio-show-greg-schoen-botanist-on-breeding-glass-gem-corn/
- Spector, D. (2018, May 23). This Multi-Colored Corn Is Real and There's a Fantastic Story Behind It. Retrieved October 9, 2018, from https://www.businessinsider.com/the-story-behind-glass-gem-corn-2013-10#
- The 6 Types of Corn. (n.d.). Retrieved October 9, 2018, from http://www.cherrycrestfarm.com/The-Amazing-Fun-Time-Blog/The-6-Types-Of-Corn/
- WikiHow. (2017, February 15). How to Cook Glass Gem Corn. Retrieved October 9, 2018, from https://www.wikihow.com/Cook-Glass-Gem-Corn
Questions & Answers
Question: Where do you suggest I purchase glass gem corn seeds?
Answer: That's subjective, but they're readily available on Amazon: 100 heirloom Glass Gem corn seeds for USD$5, including shipping.
© 2018 Kate P
Caylie Crabtree on April 22, 2020:
I have always thought this corn was absolutely beautiful. I am getting ready to grow it and I'm super excited. I think that I will be able to grow this corn thanks to your post.
Kate P (author) from The North Woods, USA on June 30, 2019:
@Marisa Diaz, It can be a little bit difficult to get the dried Glass Gem corn off the cob. Some people will simply use a knife to pop the kernels off, while the safer method is to use a field corn hand sheller, like this one for US$10: https://www.amazon.com/Lee-Manufacturing-Company-F...
Marisa Diaz on June 29, 2019:
I am wondering how to get the dried corn off the cob? Does it easily come off when the cob is dried and the corn is as hard as flint? I've never done this before but my glass gem corn is just now getting silks and I want to be ready for harvesting and storing. Thank you!
Kate P (author) from The North Woods, USA on October 16, 2018:
@Chitrangada Sharan, Thank you! Glass gem corn is truly beautiful, and is just as beautiful dried/preserved as it is fresh! Nature is amazing..
Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on October 16, 2018:
This looks so colourful and unique. I wasn’t aware that there were colourful corns too. Corn recipes shared by you sound interesting. I would love to try them.
Thanks for this informative article, with lovely pictures and details.
Kate P (author) from The North Woods, USA on October 10, 2018:
@Eman Abdallah Kamel, I'm glad you enjoyed reading and learning about Glass Gem corn! It really is stunning, and is a beautiful decoration when dried.
Eman Abdallah Kamel from Egypt on October 10, 2018:
This corn looks so beautiful. This is the first time I see or hear about Glass Gem Corn. Thanks for this interesting article.
Kate P (author) from The North Woods, USA on October 09, 2018:
@Rochelle Frank, It is just gorgeous! The variety is endless..
Rochelle Frank from California Gold Country on October 09, 2018:
Beautiful. I'll have to look for this.