How to Grow Glass Gem Corn in Australia

Glass Gem Corn - Heirloom Seeds Australia - Seeds of Plenty

Anyone who has had a browse through the Seeds of Plenty product range will know that veggies can be pretty. Few could be prettier, however, than the multicoloured “Glass Gem” corn. You should preferably sow your seeds by late October to early November. Later sowings do have some chance of success. Since it’s already the end of November, sooner is better. 

Simply follow the instructions on the seed packet when sowing, but do remember that late sowings are more likely to contract fungal diseases. Having said that, Glass Gem is a strong genotype and it’s fairly disease resistant. With warm, relatively dry weather and a bit of luck, late sowings may yet succeed. But do bear in mind that late October is the best time. Taking a gamble on a later sowing date may or may not be a success. Consider saving some of your seeds for next year if you’d like to hedge your bets!

Once your seeds are in and your plants have begun to grow, you may well be wondering what on earth you’ll do with your colourful corn when harvest time arrives. Here’s what you need to know.

Harvesting and Drying

Glass gem is a traditional type of corn that can be classified as flint corn. If you’re thinking that translates to “rock hard,” you’ve got it in one. Not for this variety, the cooking of developing cobs. It’s been done. They aren’t sweet, and they will take a LOT of boiling to soften if they ever soften at all. Flop alert! It’s not recommended. But that doesn’t mean Glass Gem corn isn’t edible. In fact, many people have commented on its good flavour and texture. You just don’t eat it like corn on the cob. More on this further on. 

Of course, a lot of gardeners can’t bear to do anything to the colorful corn. It’s just too pretty. So they use it as a kind of decor item. Displaying the gorgeously coloured dried corn in baskets or weaving the outer leaves into ropes from which the corn hangs suspended.  

Whether you plan to try eating your coloured corn or intend to use it as a conversation piece, harvesting and drying are the first steps to take. For this variety, it’s best to allow the ears of corn to dry on the plant somewhat just as ancient South American tribes did. 

After picking, peel back the leaves to expose the kernels and air dry them some more. You can do this on a mesh rack, turning the ears every day or two. Or you can have a go at making braided strings from the folded back leaves. Braiding in extra ears as you go. Dangle them in a dry place with good air circulation, and they should air dry nicely.

You’ll know that your corn is dry when the kernels don’t dent in when pressed with a fingernail. They are now truly as hard as flint. 

If you’re using your ears of corn for decor or as gifts, you only need to decide on how you will display them, but if you’re planning to try eating them, you now have a few options. 

Glass Gem Popcorn

If you were expecting multicoloured popcorn, you’ll be disappointed. Initially, you might also notice that the percentage that pops is rather lower than that you’d expect from popping corn bought at the grocery store, and you might also notice that the popped kernels aren’t as big and fluffy. 

However, if you like your popcorn crunchy with a bit more substance and concentrated flavour, the glass gem won’t disappoint. In taste tests, it was found that the unpopped kernels weren’t too hard to eat, and made quite a nice snack too – albeit not quite the same as properly popped corn. 

Our verdict? If you’ve got colourful cobs to spare, or just want to experiment, this has to be worth a try!

Go Traditional with Glass Gem Corn Meal

The real traditional use of flint corn is easy to see. The dried kernels can last for a long time, allowing folks to grind their own cornmeal as and when they need it. Of course, this is how traditional forms of corn, from which glass gem was bred using natural methods, were used for thousands of years. 

Grinding corn the old fashioned way is certainly hard work, but if you have a sturdy blender, the process is quite simple once you’ve got through the process of getting the kernels off the cob. Start at a fairly slow speed, increasing it as the cornmeal gets finer. The end product isn’t colourful like the kernels from which it came, but you will have an authentic form of cornmeal that can be used in recipes ranging from grits to tortillas or even muffins. 

Looking Forward to a Colorful Harvest

After giving you the whole rigmarole about sowing before the end of October, you’d think I’d have been on top of my sowing time, but this year, I sowed late. I picked a spot where I haven’t grown corn before to limit the chances of fungal spores getting to my plants, and I’ll be watering my plants close to the ground to avoid wetting the leaves. It’s a matter of hoping for the best. Meanwhile, I’ll be hoping for a colourful harvest. Let’s see if I succeed!

Meanwhile, we’re all hoping that you were quicker to sow than I was and that you’ll enjoy a great growing season packed with successes!

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