Grow Your Own Edible Rainbow Corn
These corn kernels look like jewels!
When picturing a fresh ear of corn on the cob, you probably think of bright yellow kernels or speckles of white and yellow all lined up in pretty rows. But, did you know there is an edible variety of corn that looks like tiny pieces of colored glass formed into a mosaic rainbow? It’s called Glass Gem Corn and its a relatively new variety of corn that’s gaining attention in fields and kitchens all over the world.
Back in 2010, Seeds Trust posted a photo of Glass Gem Corn on its Facebook page and its legend spread quickly.
There is an entire Facebook group dedicated to this variety of corn that looks more like jewelry or stained glass than a vegetable, but it isn’t very active right now.
Glass Gem Corn comes from an Oklahoma farmer named Carl Barnes, whose family roots can be traced back to the Native American Cherokee tribe. During his later years, he started experimenting with planting old Native American corn seeds. In the process, he isolated variants that matched with traditional corns lost to native tribes. He re-introduced those types to the elders of the tribes, Mother Earth News said, helping them reclaim their cultural identities.
He also started combining those heirloom Native American seeds with other colorful corn seeds from the southwestern United States. The union of these different corn seeds created the colorful cobs known as Glass Gem Corn.
In 1995, Barnes passed his seeds on to younger farmer Greg Schoen. Fast forward to 2010, when Schoen shared some of them with another farmer named Bill McDorman, an avid seedsman. McDorman planted the seeds and couldn’t believe the results.
“I was blown away,” McDorman said in a 2013 article posted to Native Seeds/SEARCH. “No one had ever seen corn like this before.”
But, you don’t have to be a scientist to plant your own patch of these ears of colored corn. Etsy shops like are filled with packets of Glass Gem Corn seeds ranging from $3.50 to $11.95 per shipment, depending on how many seeds you want. Native Seeds/SEARCH also sells them.
The seeds take a few months to grow. Schoen himself recommends putting them in rows 30 inches apart with a gap of 6-12 inches between each cluster of 3-4 seeds, according to Dengarden. Leave a gap between clusters of about 3-4 feet. Plant in full sun when soil is at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit and protect from wind. You’ll want to provide your plants with about an inch of water per week.
The stalks can get up to 9 feet high, and the kernels will appear white before the colors develop, so be patient. You’ll be able to harvest them about 110-120 days after planting. A post on the Facebook page says you should wait until the husks are yellowed and dry before you pick them in order to get the best color results.
Recommended uses for Glass Gem corn include making it into popcorn or grounding it into flour. It is not like sweet corn, so you probably wouldn’t want to eat it off the cob. We also think it would be a great way to decorate your home for the fall season!