A 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 very 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.
2.) 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…).