How to Grow, Harvest, Dry, and Cook Beautiful Glass Gem Corn
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 (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.
By 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 & 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 & 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.
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 for decoration.
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 minutes, then fill pot with cold water and return corn kernels to pot. Gently begin the 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.
Have You Ever Grown Glass Gem Corn?
Beautiful Glass Gem CornClick thumbnail to view full-size
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
© 2018 Kate P