Heirloom gardening continues to attract interest throughout the world for reintroducing ancient varieties of vegetables and fruit to growers. In recent years a variety of heirloom corn, known as Glass Gem, has caused quite a stir. This colourful strain of flint corn has a jewel-like quality that makes it both unique and highly appealing. Flint corn, although edible, is not sweet and is typically used to make flour or popping corn.
Carl “White Eagle” Barnes, a part-Cherokee farmer from Oklahoma, worked hard during his lifetime to amass and preserve hundreds of varieties of rare maize. He was especially interested in collecting seeds that produced colourful ears of corn. Glass Gem is a special blend of Pawnee miniature corn varieties, Osage red flour corn and Osage Greyhorse corn. In 2010 this bedazzling heirloom corn became available to the public through Native Seeds/SEARCH – a Tuscon, Arizona-based non-profit conservation organization. As one heirloom seed enthusiast said, “…as eye-popping images of Glass Gem continue to spread around the world, Carl Barnes’ kaleidoscopic corn has become a beacon—and perhaps an inspiring symbol—for the global seed-saving revival.”