Glass Gem Corn Shines On The Cob

Interested in planting something totally new and different in your garden this summer? You might want to try Glass Gem corn.

“Glass Gem corn has gotten worldwide publicity because of its beauty,” says Bill McDorman, executive director for Native Seeds/SEARCH in Tucson, Ariz., noting that it’s a flint corn. That means it’s suitable for popping. However, there’s more interest in it for decoration.

For about 20 years, Carl Barnes, an Oklahoma farmer selectively saved seed with vivid, translucent colors to develop the variety. His seed was eventually passed on to McDorman at Native Seeds/SEARCH. Now Glass Gem, a 90-day corn, is available for $5.95 for about 100 seeds. But getting it might not be easy. At the end of 2012, there were 2,000 people from all over the world on the waiting list for the seed.

It’s an open-pollinated variety, which means seeds can be saved from year to year.

“At our seed bank we have over 500 varieties of corn and more than 2,000 varieties of other crops adapted to the Southwest,” McDorman says. The organization believes diverse and traditionally developed varieties are important for future food security.

He points to an example in the late 1980’s when a stem-eating fungus broke out in commercial sunflower crops, and a search was started to breed in a variety resistant to that fungus.

“They found a resistant variety in our collection that came from Native Americans in the Grand Canyon, and that was bred into the sunflowers,” McDorman says.

Statistically, 96 percent of seed varieties that existed in 1903 are no longer available, McDorman says.

Check out the Native Seeds/SEARCH website for more seeds and for information about upcoming Seed School events in various parts of the U.S.

Due to the high interest over the last few months, the company has set up an online waiting list. Go to their website ( to sign up. When your name comes up they will send you an email with instructions on how to order.

If the current waiting list cannot be filled this season, the names will roll-over to the next harvest.