Glass gem corn

Unlike the typical golden shade found on most corn cobs, glass gem corn consists of many hues of the rainbow, combined into one colorful cob. Although the colors may look unnatural, glass gem corn is non-GMO and was created naturally by combining several strains of corn. The name “glass gem corn” is a reflection of the colorful kernels and the shiny appearance.

While this may be a new type of corn to many people, the origins date back to Native Americans. Corn is thought to be the earliest crop in the world. Each Native American tribe was known for a distinct strain of corn which was tied to their unique heritage. While it may seem like corn is something delicious to enjoy during a barbeque today, it was an essential aspect of the culture and lifestyle of Native American tribes. A comparison in today’s society could be a country’s flag, a religion, or a language. The corn reflected the identity of the tribe. 

Over time, and as Native Americans relocated, some strains of corn discontinued. Modern farmers became interested in the different strains of corn produced by Native Americans and began to experiment with growing strains together. As we know, glass gem corn in particular traces back to Carl Barnes, a part-Cherokee farmer living in Oklahoma. He started selecting and saving seeds from those cobs that exhibited vivid, translucent colors. We don’t know how long Barnes worked on Glass Gem and how many seasons it took to get the glass gem corn that we know today – a stunning gem like variety with an abundance of different hues and colours.

Glass gem corn is GMO-free and is a hybrid of many, unique corn plants from a variety of Native American tribes. It is a type of flint corn that is used to make popcorn and cornflour rather than eating straight from the cob.

Growing glass gem corn is not any different from growing regular sweet corn. You can grow both in pots or in open soil. Here are some tips to help you grow glass gem corn.

Planting Tips:

  • Plant in a warm, sunny spot that gets a lot of direct sunlight (however I grew mine in part-shade last year and they still turned out fine, but took longer).
  • If growing in pots, start seeds indoors in March/April and move to pots in May/June after last frost date.
  • I found 30L pots to be sufficient to grow 2 corn plants each.
  • If planting directly in soil, make sure it’s warm (at least 15C or 60 degrees Fahrenheit) and moist. 
  • I like to use mulch when growing corn to help lock in the moisture.
  • Avoid high winds.
glass gem corn

Three Sisters Planting Method:

  • Since glass gem corn is an indigenous crop, take a tip from indigenous people. Native Americans created and used the three sisters planting method. Planting three different crops together (traditionally corn, beans, and squash) allows properties of one plant to influence the growth of the others. In the example of corn, beans, and squash, corn provides a structure for neighboring plants, bacteria from the beans feeds surrounding crops, and squash offers shade to retain moisture and prevent weeds.


  • Leave the glass gem corn out to dry after harvesting.
  • The kernels will look duller and less “glassy” in appearance as they dry.
  • Rule of thumb: when the kernels are hard enough that you cannot puncture with a fingernail, they are ready to use.

How to Use:

There are many ways to use glass gem corn, including:

  • Creating a decoration for the home.
  • Making jewelry with the colorful pearl-like kernels (Xmas necklace anyone?)
  • Crafting (like gluing beautiful kernels to construction paper, mirror, or flower pots).
  • Saving the kernels to grow next year or give to a gardening friend (check my Instagram for the next giveaway.
  • Making popcorn (sweet or savoury and Yes, it does retain some of its’ colours).
  • Making cornmeal to use for baking or cooking.

Glass gem corn is a natural, versatile crop with a deeply rooted history. Share how you use glass gem corn!

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