Glass Gem corn, a unique variety of rainbow-colored corn, became an Internet sensation in 2012 when a photo of the dazzling cob was posted on Facebook.
Since then, the Arizona-based company that sells the rare seeds, Native Seeds/SEARCH, has been ramping up production to meet the high demand.
A Facebook page devoted to Glass Gem allows growers to share pictures of the vibrant corn variety. The page currently has nearly 17,000 likes.
But the story behind Glass Gem is just as remarkable. It begins with one man, Carl Barnes, who set out to explore his Native American roots.
The history was largely retold by Barnes’ protege, Greg Schoen, in 2012, when the corn gained national attention.
HOW IS IT CULTIVATED
The story of Glass Gem corn begins with an Oklahoma farmer named Carl Barnes. Barnes, now in his 80s, is half-Cherokee (indigenous people of the Southeastern Woodlands). He began growing older corn varieties in his adult years as a way to reconnect with his heritage.
In growing these older corn varieties, Barnes was able to isolate ancestral types that had been lost to Native American tribes when they were relocated in the 1800s to what is now Oklahoma. This led to an exchange of ancient corn seed with people he had met and made friends with all over the country.
At the same time, Barnes began selecting, saving, and replanting seeds from particularly colourful cobs. Over time, this resulted in rainbow-colored corn.
A fellow farmer, Greg Schoen, met Barnes in 1994 at a native-plant gathering in Oklahoma. Barnes had his rainbow-colored corn on display. Schoen was blown away.
That following year, Barnes gave Schoen some of the rainbow seeds. Schoen began to plant it that summer. In 2005, Schoen began growing larger plots of the rainbow corn near Sante Fe, alongside more traditional varieties.
In 2009, Schoen passed on several varieties of the rainbow seed to Bill McDorman, who owned an Arizona seed company called Seed Trust. McDorman is now the Executive Director of Native Seeds/SEARCH, a non-profit conservation organization. He brought the Glass Gem seeds with him, and they can now be purchased online.
WHAT DOES IT TASTE LIKE?
Unlike sweet corn, Glass Gem corn isn’t generally eaten off the cob. Glass Gem is known as flint corn. The name “flint” comes from the kernel’s hard outer-layer.
Most people grind it up into cornmeal and use it in tortillas or grits because it’s very starchy. It can also be used to make popcorn although it doesn’t come out rainbow-coloured. – Business Insider