Have you ever heard of ‘Glass Gem’ Corn? It is quite an exceptional popcorn variety, with multicolored, translucent and kaleidoscopic grains like gemstones, hence the variety name. It is an incredible plant curiosity, rare and unique, each ear is unique and offers a wonderful combination of colors where each kernel is a different kind of corn (or the seed of just one) with a unique mix of genes inherited from its parents ! The story behind this strain is steeped in spirituality and tradition. Back on a corn journey like no other.
A careful selection of ancient Native American breeds!
We owe this breed to an Oklahoma farmer descended from Cherokee, Carl Barnes! His grandfather introduced him to the rites of planting and harvesting and provided him with some seeds of ancient Native American varieties of corn, which he began cultivating in the 1980s, a way for him to reconnect with the culture of his Cherokee ancestors. .
From the various plantations, reborn varieties of maize will be grown by ancient Native American tribes, and we thought were lost forever. While sharing his findings with local Native American leaders and even earning the name “White Eagle,” Carl Barnes begins to isolate and replant certain seeds that are more colorful than others. It is thanks to a painstaking selection work and repeated from year to year that he has this famous but whose multi-coloured grains and translucent reflections are reminiscent of real gems, which we will mention with the ‘Glass Gem’ suite. It is a perennial variety, perfectly reproducible from year to year, unlike hybrid varieties.
When he was in his eighties and nearing the end of his life, Barnes donated his valuable seed collection to Greg Schoen, a breeder befriended by heavy responsibility to save these seeds! It was one thing to do, since he himself entrusted seed collection in 2010 to the “Native Seeds” Network, an association that preserves ancient American seeds. Association director Bill McDorman then arranged for seeds of this particular variety to be sown in his own garden. McDorman was surprised when he first saw the corn ripen, he is said to have exclaimed, “’Nobody had ever seen such a corn’! This is how to start the multiplication and distribution of the seeds of this variety.
How do I grow and use ‘Glass Gem’ corn?
Corn seeds are sown in a sunny spot at the beginning of spring, between March and May, depending on the region. Plants are generally sown every 40cm, in rows 70cm apart. A few weeks after emergence, when the plants are 15 to 20 cm high, it is advisable to mound the legs to promote rooting.
At this stage it is also the time to possibly combine it with climbing beans! Many savvy gardeners grow their beans on corn stalks. Indeed, the corn grows tall, straight and is firmly anchored in the ground. Pole beans, as well as pickles and gherkins, will find in him a faithful ally in this growing association to grow serenely to the tops. Note that the ‘Glass Gem’ variety can grow between 2 and 3 meters in height, producing multiple stems on each plant. The harvest of ears with a length of 10 to 20 cm usually takes place between September and October, when the covering around the ear is dry and brown, the grains will then be intense and translucent in color.
This corn can be made into flour or popped into popcorn. To make pocorn, simply heat the oil in a pan, when it is hot add the corn kernels. When the corn begins to pop, cover and cook for 3 minutes, shaking the pan. Finally, remove the lid, add the butter and salt or sugar, mix and taste immediately!
As a landscape architect and geographer by training, I am passionate about the plant world and its countless curiosities. Founder of the Rexania blog and activist for gardening in harmony with nature, I am also an Alsatian gardener, ardent defender of ancient, free and reproducible varieties.