Beautiful Ears - Glass Gem Corn
25 Sep 2013 08.25 am by K. Daniel
Corn. A simple plant, yet versatile. It sustained populations accross the world and remains a staple product in modern times. Oils from the plant can be used for cooking, and to a certain extent the plant products could be used to produce biofuel. Certain varieties are used as decorations and other cultural purposes.
Back in 2012, this humble vegetable (botanically, it is actually a fruit cluster, and commercially, a grain) took the internet by storm.
The cause? Images which were uploaded by Bill McDormann, president of Seeds Trust after growing seeds stored by seedsman Greg Schoen. The images, and subsequent story on its origins went viral through several social media platforms. The Glass Gem Corn as it is known, became an instant hit.
But what type of corn is it exactly, and is it edible?
Glass Gem Corn is a type of Indian Corn or Maize, i.e. a corn used for milling or an ingredient for popcorn. Unlike sweetcorns which you typically find in the supermarket, Maize is predominantly made up of starches rather than sugars, and harder kernels.
Cooking will only soften the corns if it is processed for a considerable amount of time, while flavour has been described by some to be nutty, starchy, or bland.
Back to Glass Gem, it is non GMO (Genetically Modified product), but rather is a result of extensive breeding programs. Color of the kernels vary widely, and it doesn't seem to have any sort of consistent pattern or color scheme.
News of the corn excited the masses for several reasons. First, it displays the amazing diversity of heirloom varieties which are often shunned for more practical and widespread commercial variants.
Second, it brings to light the seed library movement, which focuses on a diverse range of heritage foods which are continuously decreasing in the face of commercialization and modern farming practices. In effect, it teaches and empowers individuals to take back responsibility and knowledge of the foods eaten everyday.
Finally, it is an absolutely, positively stunning example of produce which is often overlooked for processed goods. Look at it! It's like a cluster of jellybeans (although flavour wise it will be different).
Perhaps Glass Gem will also inspire you to explore the range of other heirlooms. Indian Corn in particular also includes a range of other oddly coloured and striking corn varieties, some often used for decorative purposes.
In terms of availability, currently Glass Gem Corn is only available in limited quantities, but as breeding continues, there is hope that this beautiful specimen will be available to more people and adorn more gardens.
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