Saturday, March 2, 2013

'Glass Gem' Corn from Native Seeds

Some of you might remember the internet sensation that was 'Glass Gem' corn when it was making the rounds of Facebook and Pinterest last year.  The gorgeous colors exhibited by this heirloom variety are almost too amazing to be believed.  But believe it.  I've seen it in person and it's just that stunning.

Last October, I attended the Garden Writers Association annual meeting, held in Tucson, Arizona.  It was my first trip to Arizona and was much too short.  I was only there for a few days and one of the big reasons for going was to meet with the co-author of my upcoming book release, Jenny Peterson.  Jenny lives in Austin, Texas, so any chance we have of getting together is taken.

Jenny and me at the GWA meeting in Tucson

One of the places the garden writers visited was Native Seeds/SEARCH in Patagonia.  According to their website:

Native Seeds/SEARCH conserves, distributes and documents the adapted and diverse varieties of agricultural seeds, their wild relatives and the role these seeds play in cultures of the American Southwest and northwest Mexico. We promote the use of these ancient crops and their wild relatives by gathering, safeguarding, and distributing their seeds to farming and gardening communities.

Native Seeds/SEARCH is a non-profit conservation organization based in Tucson, Arizona. Since 1983, we have become a major regional seed bank and a leader in the heirloom seed movement. Our seed bank is a unique resource for both traditional and modern agriculture. It includes over 1,800 varieties of arid-land adapted agricultural crops, many of them rare or endangered. We promote the use of these ancient crops and their wild relatives by distributing seeds to traditional communities and to gardeners world wide.

Currently we offer over 350 varieties from the collection we steward, grown out at our Conservation Farm in Patagonia, Arizona, and associated products through our online store, annual seedlisting, and our retail store. We also offer seeds of crop varieties that are not traditional to the Southwest but that can contribute to regional food security.

When I first saw 'Glass Gem' corn online last summer, I fell in love with its jewel-toned kernels and didn't really care if it was edible or not. While mostly grown for its ornamental beauty, 'Glass Gem' is also used for making flour and is a popping corn!  In any case, I knew I wanted to grow it, so I went to the website, only to find out there was a waiting list.  No big surprise there.

What was a surprise was when we pulled into the Native Seeds/SEARCH location last October and I realized we were at the source of 'Glass Gem' corn.

There it was, looking as beautiful as I'd seen it online:

'Glass Gem'

'Glass Gem' is an heirloom variety selectively bred over a period of years by Carl Barnes, a part-Cherokee farmer from Oklahoma.  He shared his seeds with one of his students, Greg Schoen, who then shared them with Bill McDorman, now executive director at Native Seeds/SEARCH.

Bill McDorman, executive director of Native Seeds/SEARCH,
speaking to members of the Garden Writers Association
in October 2012

Sold only through the Native Seeds/SEARCH website, I received notification yesterday that I could purchase 'Glass Gem' now.  Over 7,000 people are on the waiting list and through a special link, only those people can purchase one packet of 50 seeds.  With that many people (and more) wanting these seeds, it's doubtful that everyone will be able to get them, at least not this season.

I'm pretty excited that I will be able to grow this beauty here at Our Little Acre this year.  Of course, I'll be saving the seed from this year's crop so that I can continue to grow it.  It could be interesting though, to see what happens in my garden, since the farmer's field that is directly adjacent to the gardens will be growing corn this year and will likely cross-pollinate with it (depending on the stages of development for each at the time of pollination).  And "it" undoubtedly will be one of the Monsanto-bred varieties.  That's another story for another day...

More from my visit to Native Seeds/SEARCH:

The beauty of seeds...

Renee Shepherd, seedsman extraordinaire and owner of
Renee's Garden Seeds, learns about these native seed varieties.

Hopi rattle gourd seeds (Lagenaria siceraria)

Native Plants/SEARCH operates a regional seed bank, with over
1,800 varieties of arid-land adapted agricultural crops, many of
them rare or endangered.


Love the art and the gabions!

Visit Native Seeds/SEARCH for more information and to order very unique seeds for your own garden.


Anne Larson said...

Hi Kylee! I, too, received notification that I could get a packet of the seeds yesterday. I can't wait to grow it and propagate for the future. Glad to know it is as beautiful in person as in the pictures!

Susan H. said...

Beautiful i think I would like to plant this!

Kylee Baumle said...

Anne ~ Oh, good!! It will be fun to grow this, won't it?

Susan ~ Better get on the list!

Claire said...

I love this corn variety, am going to try it, and only became aware of it on Pinterest! I would also be interested in knowing if it cross pollinates with "Monsanto" corn aas I am surrounded by corn fields. See you at the Blogger's Fling!

Mary Anne from said...

I first saw these seeds on Pinterest too and would love to grow some. I have a lot of problems with raccoons stealing my harvest, though. I wonder if raccoons prefer sweet corn and wouldn't touch some varieties, or are they equal-opportunity snackers?

Unknown said...

Hi Kylee,

Absolutely LOVE this post! I too received a notification that the seeds were ready (while I was at work). Of course, I had to get my break in right away (so I could order) ;-)

I'm so excited to grow this heirloom. Make sure to post photos of your crop. I can't wait to compare colors with everyone who is growing this season.

Do you mind if I make a blog entry linking to your nice post about Native Seeds/SEARCH?

All the best,

Kylee Baumle said...

Claire ~ Oh, I can guess one thing we'll be talking about with each other in San Francisco! ;-) I look forward to seeing you!

Mary Anne ~ You know, sometimes the garden pests only eat the leaves of the heirlooms and leave the hybrids alone. As far as raccoons go, I think corn is corn to them. We have had problems with them here, too.

Sarah ~ It will really be fun to read about each others' experiences, won't it?

You absolutely can link to my blog. I'd be honored! Thank you!

Melissa said...

Wonderful post! We are glad to hear your excited about growing Glass Gem corn. We have shared your blog post on the Glass Gem Facebook page. We are hoping this will be a community forum for others to share photos, growing tips, recipes, etc. Please share any other posts you write about Glass Gem.

kreezy said...

If you want the seed you harvest this year to grow true-to-type next year, then you're going to have to prevent your neighbor's corn from pollinating your plants. Cover the ears with shoot bags before the silks emerge, and collect some pollen from your plants by clipping up a bag over one of the tassels. Once the silks emerge, quickly remove the shoot bag, sprinkle the pollen onto the silks, and then cover the ear back up and let it grow. Good luck!

Julie said...

I grew my glass seed corn right along the edge of a field full of dent corn..Clearly was not thinking when I planted!! I had mixed results, but some of the glass seed corn did turn out just fine. My biggest problem was bugs. I lost my silks and had some problems with pollination so my ears are spotty, but colorful! I'm going to try to grow from what I harvested from this fall!

Kylee Baumle said...

Oh, I can see that I missed responding to some comments!

Melissa ~ As you probably know, I've been sharing right along. What a fun time I had growing 'Glass Gem'! Thank YOU for sharing!

kreezy ~ While I had a few ears that clearly were pollinated by either the nearby field corn or the sweet corn, there weren't many. We didn't do anything special and I think we lucked out with pollination times not occurring simultaneously. We had beautiful corn at harvest!

Julie ~ I'm so sorry you had the bug problem! We had a few ears that just didn't mature, but all in all, we had good results. We're letting the kernels dry out now so we can pop it. We sample popped some and the flavor is superior to any other popcorn I've ever had. We too are saving seed for growing next year. I hope you have better luck in 2014!

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