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Glass Gem Corn is no scam

One of the biggest news items to hit gardening news headlines last year was the introduction of Glass Gem Corn. It was touted as the most colorful corn you can grow. The growers offered a sketchy history of its development. The story goes that a part-Cherokee farmer spent years carefully cross-pollinating his most spectacular corn plants to breed this Glass Gem line. As he aged, he passed his corn project on to student and friend Greg Schoen, who, needing to leave the corn fields in 2010, offered the collection to the Native Seeds/SEARCH trust for storage in Arizona. There seems to be little information about either of these people available and the corn remained somewhat of a secret until a seedsman at the storage center decided to test out the kernels by growing them himself. Bill McDorman (now the Executive Director) was so impressed with the intense color range that he publicized the variety in 2012, causing a lot of excitement – and rumors that the corn was a scam, colors being enhanced with photo manipulation.

These amazingly colored corn kernels will fade a little as they dry out.
Photo by Jane Gates

The seeds were hard to come by in 2012 since only a limited amount was available through the Native Seeds/SEARCH center – and they were very expensive. I was lucky enough to have been gifted a half dozen by grower Dan Heims, president of Terra Nova Nurseries (a professional breeding nursery) located in Portland, Oregon.

Having serious problems with ravenous rats and mice due to the ongoing extreme drought in my area, I was forced to grow the seeds in fifteen gallon pots inside of a wire-enclosed pen, so the cobs were likely smaller and less successfully pollinated than they would have been had they been grown in open ground. Still, the results were impressive. Shucking each corn husk was like unwrapping surprise gifts on a holiday. None disappointed! Although the corn is not a sweet corn variety – the kind most home gardeners grow for eating – these kernels are best for grinding into flour and to use for popcorn. Since the corn is still drying out, I have yet to taste any. But just looking at the decorative cobs with kernels in every color of the rainbow, they are a feast for the eyes. Here is a video of the harvest with some instructions on drying corn – both sweet and Indian corn. You can clearly see that there is no room for Photoshop alteration. The colors seen here are affected only by daylight and kitchen lighting, and, from my experience, there is no scam or misleading about the amazing colors of this corn.

Native Seeds/SEARCH has their first official crop of seeds for sale now, at the end of 2013. If you want to have fun growing some amazing corn, try them out. One thing is for sure: this corn will provide you with some of the most ornamental ears you can find anywhere for seasonal decoration. And save some of the dried kernels to seed your next year’s crop so you can have the fun of unwrapping the colorful gifts all over again!

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