Glass Gem Corn, and other heirloom jewels of the corn cabinet…

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This one is for all the heirloom corn fans out there (and this completely includes me). The genetic diversity of maize is intense. It’s also the most widely grown crop in the Americas.

About 80% of maize grown in the USA is now GMO, and that makes the heirloom varieties even more precious. Thankfully, there are thousands of varieties. And many of them are exquisite…

‘Glass Gem’ corn, via Seeds Trust

So on Thursday I posted up to facebook the above picture I’d come across of Glass Gem corn, and the result was startling. So many, many people were so excited by this incredible image, and what it said about so much in this world of ours. And all from a cob of corn.

So in the spirit of drooling over incredible heirloom ‘grinding corn’ (i.e. the sort of corn one grinds for corn meal, as opposed to eats on the cob), I went looking, and here is some of what I found. Click on the images for sources (where available)…

Peruvian corn, drying

‘Gem Corn’ is available through at least two heirloom seed suppliers in the USA that I know of, and no doubt through many seed savers networks. Please support these small enterprises preserving genetic diversity for everyone:

An even better bet, and one that will result in regular delight as you discover just how cool heirloom varieties can be, would be to join up to your local seed savers network:

Viva la maize! Not sure how many of the incredible varieties above are available in Australia… any leads, anyone? Or has anyone had success ordering such seeds from overseas, and having the seeds actually make it over here?

>> More posts about seed saving

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  • Ken Robinson
    • milkwoodkirsten

      Thanks Ken!

  • mullimburra

    I have seen many heirloom varieties over the years but the gem corn made me gasp! Just imagine the density of nutrients in these coloured grains.
    Last year at SAGE ( we grew two varieties for market-both a traditional sweet corn and a hybrid super sweet. The older sweet corn had a window for picking of about 2 days before it became very starchy (but still tasty).Our modern tastebuds certainly go for the sweetness of the hybrid, but at what nutrient cost I wonder?

    • milkwoodkirsten

      Some of the dark grinding corns have ridiculous levels of antioxidants… many of them taste fine straight off the cob, but don’t hold their sweetness like ‘sweet corn’ that we know…

  • Dee

    I feel lucky that we are living in a time when the world is once again appreciating variety and quality over tasteless qty.

  • narf77

    Agreed Dee…the world has become a much smaller place thanks to technology and it has allowed us to discover some amazing things. Cheers for these absolutely gorgeous pictures! Forget eating it (although I am up for it!), I would wear it around my neck! 2 on each ear and a few ears on my plate in various forms. I need to get hold of some of this!

  • Emily Heath

    Astonishing, I had no idea such shimmering colours of corn existed. It would be tragic if we lost all these old varieties.

  • Sandy Underwood

    Soooo…are there seeds to be had…glass gem corn? I would really LOVE to purchase some!!!

  • gaiamethod

    So beautiful! I definitely will try to get some of these when they become available to see how I can grow them here in Egypt! I will try some of the other varieties too, like the painted mountain! Equally beautiful!!! So good to find seeds that can grow in such hot climates!!! I want to learn how to grind them by hand, just like they used to do! Great blog. Reposted it!

  • LightFoot Education

    I have some dark red corn stashed away that I grew a few years ago. I can’t guarantee the viability or that you’ll get the same cobs from it though because I’m pretty sure I grew it with other corn varieties. Given that they cross pollinate so readily it’s hard to ensure true to type progeny (unless you manually pollintate and bag the female flowers or grow only one variety with a BIG buffer zone!). Let me know if you want some Kirsten and I’ll send some up.

  • Sharon

    The glass gem corn is very cool, hope that the seed will become available in australia. i’ve been looking for interesting corn and popcorn seed, and it seems that the varieties available in australia are few compared to what you can get in the US. I’ve seen red and red/yellow maize available in Australia (eden I think), and they sell a popcorn too. You used to be able to buy more coloured corn about 10 years ago – I am sure that both blue and strawberry popcorn was available, plus more coloured maize. I guess we just don’t have the corn eating history of america to help keep the varieties available here. Heirloom grains are a very interesting thing though – from memory there is a blue wheat…

  • Bowerbird

    I grow an heirloom variety of ‘Two Inch Strawberry Popcorn’ here in Chicago. Beautiful deep red kernel on 2″ cobs. Good for popping and always a hit with little ones.

  • contadinak

    incredible!!! i can’t believe the beauty that i’m mmm mmm mmm-ing in front of my computer looking at these! spectacular tfs!

  • Merri Bee

    Hi Kirsten, we are in Western Australia and have been a certified organic farm for 9 years. We have been saving our own organic seeds for decades and just lately started selling them because people in WA can not source corn ( and many other) seed from the Eastern states catalogues due to quarantine laws. We bulked up some American and Aztec corn seeds we had and are constantly amazed at the colours we are getting, seems to be more and more every year. Some look just like your beautiful post depicts. We have a rudimentary seed catalogue on our blog ( Bees Blog) which can be clicked on at the top of our home page at
    We only save seeds of non hybrid, really useful , productive and tough plants for permaculture in mediterranean /arid zones and now sell them for $3.50 a packet, postage is free. They are certified with NASAA.

    • milkwoodkirsten

      Awesome – thanks Merri!

    • Tanya

      Quarantine applies in Tasmania too. Please, fellow Tasmanians, do NOT order in seed and bring in seed that has not met quarantine standards. It would be so exciting to grow all these varieties but we must protect our agri industry.

  • compostcorner

    Corn porn!

  • Melissa Kruse-Peeples

    Native Seeds/SEARCH has written a blog post (including more pics) of the history of Glass Gem corn. The post also has a link to an on-line waiting list for seeds when them come available in October 2012. Yes, they ship internationally.

    • milkwoodkirsten

      great! thanks for letting us know…

  • Clorisa

    I will be planting my Glass Gem Corn this weekend. My seedlings sprouted beautifully 100%. I have sweet yellow corn and my Glass Gems. I will plant them one acre apart and hope to the Lord they do not cross pollinate. I was only able to get ten seeds from our local native bank but hopefully I will be able to save more than that for next year. To excited!!!!!

  • Shane Samwise Richter-Smith

    Hey Guys.. In the poster of the Corn of the Americas, their is a fat round purple variety. What is that???

  • Shanna

    Diggers has a variety called “painted mountain”

  • Kim Bawden

    It looks like corn infected with a type of corn fungus, which is edible and now a high end restaurant delicacy