Glass Gem Corn: Short History

On November 23, 2013 by Lazer Horse

Glass Gem Corn - bright coloured corn kernels

Glass gem corn is odd stuff admittedly, but during the course of this article I’m going to try and convince you that it isn’t just some fantastical food item from the bowels of Narnia. These images of colourful corn might look like a sub par Photoshop job but I promise, it really is as real as chips. As real as reality itself, if you will.

And, you’ll be pleased to hear, glass gem corn has nothing to do with genetic modification, aliens or crop spraying. It’s good old-fashioned mother nature, guided by a sprig of human spirit.

Glass Gem Corn - Close Up


Glass Gem Corn - kernel colour rare Glass Gem Corn - kernel colour heirloom

Glass gem corn had its virgin birth at the hands of Carl Barnes, a part-Cherokee farmer living in Oklahoma with a penchant for corn breeding. He would carefully select the seeds of corn that happened to have glassy and/or bright kernels and over a number of seasons he finely honed mother nature’s handiwork. Carl has sadly passed on to the big green field in the sky, but here he is among his friends:

Glass Gem Corn - Carl Barnes Oklahoma

As Barnes got older he left his precious magic seeds to Greg Schoen, his corn-breeding protégé. The seeds were then passed on to Bill McDorman, owner of a small seed company in Arizona. Bill eventually planted them because he was intrigued by the label declaring the corn to be “glass gem”. He was mighty impressed when they did come to fruition.

Glass Gem Corn - collection

Animal Collection

Before the days of highly mechanised and streamlined agriculture driven by supermarkets there used to be a wealth of heirloom species. In an effort to homogenise for profit a lot of these strains, that had been carefully manicured over decades, disappeared. It’s a bit of a shame really. Basically, if a crop doesn’t grow fast enough or if it’s the wrong shade of colour then it’s viewed as worthless by the big chains holding the purse strings.

Glass Gem Corn - Unfurled



On a positive note, there is a hopeful seed library movement on the rise at the moment. Seed saving is a practice that humans have engaged in for as long as 12,000 years, but over the past few decades this has been almost entirely crushed by Mr Sainsbury’s, his devil wife Mrs Tesco and their hideous (but reasonably priced) children Madame Asda and Master Aldi.

Here’s a neat little diagram showing the changes in vegetable variety over the last century:

Glass Gem Corn - The Extinction Of Breeds of Seeds

As for glass gem corn, the pin-up girl of the seed bank movement, it is edible, but not sweet. Apparently it’s good for popping and turning into flour though. If you like you can order glass gem corn seeds here. You get about fifty seeds for eight bucks. Not bad.

I’ll end with an insightful quote from a Daily Mail article that covered the lovely crop:

What would the jolly green giant say?







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