Glass Gems

So, you tell me:

Is this jewelry?

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Photo courtesy of

Or food?

Honestly, I believe it could pass as both, but the gorgeous “gems” you see are, indeed, edible.

This is an heirloom variety of corn, aptly named “glass gem.”

According to Native Seeds, a nonprofit seed conservation organization in Arizona, the roots of the Glass Gem variety can be traced to an Oklahoma farmer with a calling: corn.

“Barnes had an uncanny knack for corn breeding. More specifically, he excelled at selecting and saving seed from those cobs that exhibited vivid, translucent colors. Exactly how long Barnes worked on Glass Gem—how many successive seasons he carefully chose, saved, and replanted these special seeds—is unknown,” reports Stephen Thomas of Native Seeds. “But after many years, his painstaking efforts created a wondrous corn cultivar that has now captivated thousands of people around the world.”


Photo courtesy of

The kernels of Glass Gem are ideal for popping or grinding into cornmeal, and thanks to the efforts of conscientious seed savers, you can buy and grow your own. Seed packets are currently available at the Native Seeds shop.

Native Seeds encourages everyone who grows Glass Gem corn to rejoin the ritual of seed saving by setting aside your favorite selections for replanting the following year. “Share seed with your friends and neighbors, organize a seed swap, or start a seed library in your community, they suggest. “As Carl Barnes has taught us, all it takes is one person to create a more colorful, diverse, and abundant world—one seed at a time.”

  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    Indian corn is always so interesting and beautiful to me with the colors, but this variety is stunning! Wow, there is so much variety of color, including pastels.

  2. As the owner of a small heirloom seed company, I was fascinated by this particular corn. I love how the light seems to go through the kernels, as though it was truly made of glass! I have to GROW this corn ! But my coons can hardly wait too. The battle is on . I was planning on growing a very rare deep purple with purple leaves and cob, corn called “Purple Merado”. But I might have to grow “Glass Gem ” instead. Thanks for sharing this important information.

  3. calle says:

    Thanks for this “Memory Lane” post. My dear uncles planted this and one being a history buff, followed the same path. Other children did not that wondrous joy of watching and waiting harvest of this ” mysterious miracle ” Indian corn. The Corn Palace uses this and other colors to paint scenes, which turns into art. My parents met at the annual Corn Palace dance, thus I am indebted to this wonderful corn. It is my heritage.
    I will order some and hope to continue the wonderment.

  4. Karlyne says:


  5. Nancy Coughlin says:

    The Indian corn is stunning! I love corn, but can no longer eat it because of medical reasons. I love to see all the colors and it is wonder to know that this corn is an heirloom corn. What dedication!

  6. calle says:

    Am sad as I have called and called and called an no answer or response. So wanted four packages to plant.
    Anyone else had trouble reaching them?

    • MaryJane says:

      I ordered online easy peasy and got my glass gem seed already. Check the phone # again and maybe go online? Not sure why you’re having trouble.

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