unknown vegetables…

glassgelA while ago it was quite overhyped on the internet: a spectacular close-up picture of one ear of corn, with unreal shiny kernels in all kinds of unreal pearly colors. Some people didn’t even believe it was real, and claimed it was photoshopped. Others said it was probably genetically modified or something like that. It seemed that lot of people wanted to grow it, or to have it, but looking online told me that the seed was not widely available at all, and not only hard to get but also unusually expensive, some people on ebay did sell small quantities of it for quite high prices for example.

Now on to reality, Glass gem is a real corn, not photoshopped nor genetically modified, and just a regular open-pollinated race! And also a very variable one, so you can’t expect every comb to carry the same colors of kernels as that one in the spectacular picture. It probably was selected as the most beautiful one of the whole patch that year anyway…

some more down to earth information about the variety: Glass gem is actually a heirloom race of corn based on old Indian races, with an interesting history. It is a multicolored flint corn, with every plant having a different combination of small ears, and seeds approximately the size of unpopped popcorn. It’s (alas) also a race developed in a relatively hot climate (compared to ours) and not the earliest race, needing officially 120-130 days to mature.

I saw the pictures and thought it was a very pretty one, but I initially never planned on growing glass gem at all after receiving the info I just quoted, I am not the one to fall for hypes and knew it was quite a slow grower, so probably not fit at all for our Belgian climate. Moreover, the seeds on ebay were generally in the category of ‘obscenely high priced’, and it’s a flint corn after all, a type of corn I don’t know how to use. Why pay so much for a decorative corn???

And then, in a weird twist of fate, I suddenly and unexpectedly had glass gem seeds in my hands, 2 small packets even, one packet thanks to smart seeds, and a second one one came from a seed-swap. strange to realise that I had the seeds of the overhyped ‘most spectacular corn in the word’ photograph’, the a lot of people seemed to want to pay extreme prices for, so what could else I do but try to grow it as good as I could? In the beginning of may I planted the seeds I had, and the plants progressed slowly but they looked strong and healthy, and suite prolific. Most plants of this variety have at least 2 ears on them, and some of the bigger plants have more stems (something I haven’t seen before in corn, but then again, I’m not that experienced with corn) but it took the plants like forever to flower, and when the first ears were visible the summer was over.

I’s a very slow corn indeed… Would it yield anything before the killing coldness would take over?

It’s been a vglass gemery warm month of october in 2013 , without any trace of nocturnal frosts, and the plants are still healthy and growing. This I harvested my first 2 ears (see left), so I can give my first impressions now, and I begin here:
I do think that it is indeed a beautiful corn, but not for here, and I wonder if the hype is worth it.

So what are my thoughts on glass gem?

1.) sloooooow: ‘glass gem’ is too slow a grower for our climate, officially 120-130 days but it even took longer here. Also because the month of may was unusually cold (I planted them on the 5th, they only came up at the end of the month…) but I’m lucky that we didn’t have any frost yet and that the weather is still unusually war for the end of october. Hopefully more corn will ripen before the winter kills my plants…It is a strong grower that looks quite healthy and makes a lot of ears though.

glass gem 12.) beautiful: ‘glass gem’, on the other pictures (not that one hyped one) is a very diverse multi-colored corn with small pop-corn size kernels. The plant that I harvested had mostly colors in a weird kind of soft yellow, with some reddish and dark colors. It is indeed beautiful and shiny in a way I haven’t seen in any corn. Worth the wait, but was it worth the stress and looking the weather?

3.) Is it useful?: If I do get a decent harvest still in spite of everything, what do I do with it? Except from seed-saving and decoration, what can I use it for?(I’m not the guy to rip off people on ebay by selling seeds of a supposed ‘miracle corn’ for an enormous amount of money, that wouldn’t feel right!) Yes, it’s edible as a flint corn, to make flour, but I have no idea what I should do with that. The use as popcorn seems to be contested.
(And what am i growing corn anyway? We don’t eat much corn since my eldest daughter is corn-intolerant and can’t eat it…)

Verdict: it was a fun experiment that seems to be turning out okay in the end (although I was despairing most of the time that it would yield anything at all), Glass gem is indeed the most beautiful corn I’ve ever seen, but it’s not fit at all for our climate, and I don’t exactly know what to do with it except maybe for lending the combs to amateur photographers who can make better pictures of it than I am possible to make.
Next year I’ll probably try something else (Alan Bishop’s multicolored genetically superdiverse ‘astronomy domine‘ sweetcorn might be a good idea for the corn department…).

glass gem close-up

gewone melkdistel1

(Nederlandse versie hier)

Common and spiny sow thistle (Sonchus asper and S. oleraceus) aren’t just two very common weeds, Both of them are also very tasty free vegetables, and they even do pop up right in the vegetable garden: Both are best used young, before they flower, and can be used to replace a slightly bitter lettuce or endive, were it not that they are often quite prickly, being a thistle and all. This makes them not that suitable for raw use (depending on the specimen,  some are still soft enough for a salad, and the leaves are, always very soft and tender, regardless of the spines). I mostly use them for my wild ‘andijviestoemp ” (Flemish traditional mashed potatoes with endive, very delicious with a baked  sausage), or a simple mixed vegetarian lettuce soup, like I did ​​today.

The recipe for the soup is very simple:

1 onion
1 small potato
2 hands of  milk thistle leaves
a borth cube, salt, pepper

Cut the onion into small pieces and fry,  add potato cubes and chopped milk thistle and let simmer with a little water; Add broth and herbs, and then when everything is cooked, mix with an immersion blender.  Add water and then let it cook for the flavors to mix and develop some more …

That’s all…
It’s just a nice simple vegetarian summer-soup, made of a vegetable that you would otherwise just have disposed of as a weed …

Tip: this kind of mixed soups has an even better taste the day after you’ve made it …



DSCF15512Sometimes I like to look a0round in exotic shops in the big city just to see what kind of, well, exotic stuff they have in there… That’s how I bought some weird-looking white dry beans in an Asian supermarket, where they had a lot more weird legume stuff I’d never seen or heard about. It’s actually the kind of small Asian supermarket where one wouldn’t be surprised to find small amounts of dried foods from all important planet in the galaxy hidden in certain dark corners, but where you also can find your Lipton ice tea green in small bottles… The ones I bought  were labelled ‘board beans’ in English, which I suppose to be a spelling error for ‘broad beans’ (Vicia faba), since they were called ‘fèves’ in French and ‘tuinbonene’ in dutch, both names for fava beans. Chinese labelling can sometimes have the weirdest mistakes in their translations.

I bought those seeds out of curiosity, because I had never seen any broad bean like this.The seeds were white and  really flat, overall not bigger than a pumpkin seed unit and not thicker than 2 pumpkin seeds, and with some white fluffy stuff on them I can’t name.

I quite doubted from the beginning that they were actual fava beans, first just because the seeds do not look at them to me, I’ve never seen completely white broad beans nor have I seen them with the white thingy on it I can’t name… But it became more clear they were something completely different afterwards, when I put in some of those seeds in a pot with favas aDSCF15602nd peas that I grew for shoots to use as a vegetable in the tichen=, Something complete unlike fava seedlings came up, pulling the seed up and giving single heart-shaped bean leaves…(The seedlings on the picture are a bit light-colored and too long because they were grown with not that much light in a pot with pea and fava been shoots to have a bit of a blanching effect)

Some beaniac on the Alan Bishop forum identified them for me as a Chinese variety of Lablab or hyacint beans (Lablab purpureus) which is both grown as an ornamental and a vegetable in warmer regions, but of which the mature seeds are said to be poisonous. Which is weird, since these white ones are grown for the edible seed and sold as drying beans… Apparently the white variety does not contain the toxines of the purple varieties, any spotted seeds or seeds with a dark hilum should be discarded though…

I will definitely grow some of these out when I plant my beans around the last day of expected frost (half may). I don’t know if I can expect much, but I can try…