There aren’t many vegetables with a Facebook page, let alone one with nearly 19,000 followers, but “Glass Gem” corn is one of a kind. Because of its translucent, rainbow-coloured kernels, it became an Internet sensation.
Growers of Glass Gem claim that the crop has inspired thousands of people to participate in seed saving and reconnect with ancient food ways. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny tells the story of how this unusual corn made its way from Oklahoma to Cornville, Arizona—and then to the rest of the world.
Brittle corn stalks around Flagstaff’s Observatory Mesa’s backyard garden. It looks dry and normal, but once the husk is stripped, it is full of surprise. The corn is filled with blue, green, purple, and yellow stripes. Fritzinger has been growing Glass Gem maize since she saw a photo of it a few years ago.
Due to wind, the corn gets wind-pollinated, and by mixing with other types of heirloom varieties, creates wild new appearances, and a reminiscent red and white swirl of peppermint candy.
Colourful #maize was first grown by Carl Barnes, an Oklahoma individual who wanted to explore the roots of his Cherokee. He began to work with old maize varieties and rediscovered features his tribe, Osage and Pawnee, had lost. He brought two little ears to the original plant rally, where the rainbow colours captivated a grower named Greg Schoen.
Barnes and Schoen became close friends. Schoen brought a handful of kernels to his New Mexico home and crossed them with Pueblo popcorn. Ears appeared with not only brilliant colours but also a shiny glasslike hue. Schoen saw it as more than just a pretty plant. It was a relic from the past that had almost been lost.
A photo of the multicoloured maize with the original title of Greg Schoen’s “Glass Gem” was posted online and it spread rapidly like a fire. There were thousands of orders for seeds.
Glass Gem maize is not sweet maize but is delicious as popcorn or meal. #McDorman adds it to his coffee, which is a traditional Mexican beverage known as Pinole. However, he claims that growing Glass Gems is about more than just food or beauty. It conserves stories and a sense of place.
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