This spring I noticed several references to an ornamental corn variety called ‘Glass Gem’ aka ‘Carl’s Glass Gem’. When the opportunity arose to try out some starts, I couldn’t resist. I learned that this is a “flint corn”, so it is not great for fresh eating. It is suitable for popcorn and for grinding into corn flour. My plan is to use it for decorating this fall, then I’ll try some popcorn when it’s fully dry.
Unwrapping each ear was quite exciting and I ended up with a nice assortment of colors. The ears are smaller than the typical corn most of us are familiar with, measuring an average of 5″-6″.
When growing an open pollinated corn like ‘Glass Gem’, you will need to provide a considerable distance from other corn varieties. Wind can carry corn pollen quite a distance, making cross pollination with neighboring corn patches quite possible.
In reading about the origins of ‘Glass Gem’ corn, I learned a little about a bit of history few are familiar with, the summer of 1816 – also known as the “Year Without a Summer”. That summer the freezing cold weather persisted into the summer. To compound the effects on crops that year, the fall freezes also began earlier in the season, resulting in such a short window that few crops were salvageable for farmers. The flint corn was one of the few crops that actually ripened during the summer of 1816. What I understood from my reading was that most crops that actually did survive the freezing, had cell walls that ruptured, due the expanding moisture/ice within. But the flint corn (called flint because it is as hard as a piece of flint) with its low moisture content and tough kernel “shell” had been able to withstand this freezing without rupturing.
This bit of history was obtained from reading various articles on various websites including: