Glass Gem corn experiment

Glass Gem corn 1

I like to do experiments in the garden and try different things. Last year I grew for the first time Glass Gem corn which you can read about in my post Glass Gem corn. When I harvested it at the end of the 2014 season, I got fantastic colors when I picked it. It truly is a special corn. But of all the many ears of corn with different colors, I got only little 2 ears of a gorgeous pink color which was like no other. I saved the pink kernels and cataloged all the colors i harvested which you can see in my post, Glass Gem corn colors. It was the only corn I grew and no neighbors grew corn so I feel reasonably certain that it is pure. This year in 2015, I decided to grow out those pink kernels and only them. I wanted to see if I would get more pink ones. Now since all the glass gem corn cross-pollinated with themselves, one would think I might get a great mix of colors this year again with such a big genetic pool, but not so.

glass gem corn ears pink

The majority of the corn was pink! Out of those 2 ears of pink corn (didn’t plant all the kernels), I got 27 ears of corn this year. I got 18 pink (3 not shown). That’s 66%. The pinks were in many different shades of pink as well.

glass gem corn ears mixed

I also got 6 mixed colors with very little pink if any and 3 more that were predominantly pink but had some purple in them too. If you include the other predominately pink ones as well, then that would be 77% of the corn I planted was in the pink family. That astonished me.

So what would happen if I planted the pink that I got this year for next year? Would I then gt 100% pink? Probably not. I think I would have to keep growing it out for about 5 years to keep eliminating any other color genes but it was a great experiment. Now there is something to be said about maintaining diversity. It tends to make stronger strains but I just might try it again next year in 2016 from this year’s corn and see what happens!

Glass Gem corn colors

Glass Gem corn 6

Glass Gem corn 6

I planted some Glass Gem corn seeds this year from Native Seed Search in AZ and grew them out. For the last 3 years I’ve tried to buy this seed but it was always sold out so I was excited to try them this year. The range of colors is incredible. Opening each ear of corn was like Christmas because you wouldn’t know what colors would be inside.  Many of the colors look like little glass pearls hence the name and some look less pearlized but all are stunningly beautiful. An interesting note is I noticed in the packet that some seeds had color and other seeds less color and it didn’t seem to matter when they grew out but maybe that’s because no one has tried to isolate particular colors yet.

I know the seeds are pure because I didn’t grow any other corn this year and all my neighbors don’t have any veggie gardens for wind cross-pollination. I am saving the seeds and will sell them by the color next spring. Of course there is no guarantee that each kernel of corn will even produce its particular color because of its unique genetics (just because you have blue eyes doesn’t mean you will produce a child with blue eyes-it depends on your genetics and the one you mated with). I’ll let you know next spring how you can buy some of them.

I’m going to take my favorite colors next year and replant the seeds and label them to see if they grow back out to that color. Great project for a Master Gardener, don’t you think? Of course I’ll have to isolate them or cross-pollination will happen for sure. I might call upon a few of my gardener friends to grow one particular color in their garden with no other corn-growing there to see what happens. This will be an interesting endeavor.

There were 15 different color combinations with some producing very limited colors due to just a few ears having those colors and some have a lot of ears with a particular color combo. Some I won’t even sell because there aren’t a lot of seeds with a particular color.  So here are the colors. Check out these beauties!

Different Types of Corn

 

Glass Gem corn

Pictured above is the Glass Gem corn I grew this year-it came out in many different colors not just these. I’ll write more on the different colors in another post.

 

Hopi Blue corn

Here is the Hopi Blue corn that my friend Jody grew. Notice the kernals shrunk.

When they dried they looked very different from each other as shown above. I thought maybe it was the way we dried them. Perhaps we dried them differently. The individual Hopi Blue kernals shrunk while the Glass Gem kernals retained their original shape. All this led me to wonder about the different types of corn I’ve hear about – dent, flint, sweet, flour and popcorn and what makes them different. So here’s what I found out.

Dent (Zea mays indent) – Dent corn is called ‘field’ corn and is used for livestock feed or in processed foods. It is usually white or yellow and contains both hard and soft starch. It becomes indented when mature. Field corn contains 4% sugar.

Flint (Zea mays indurata) – Flint corn is called ‘Indian’ corn and has a hard outer shell and is hard inside as well. The kernals are very hard, sort of like flint stone, hence the name flint. It comes in a wide range of colors. Flint corn is commonly used for decorations.

Popcorn (Zea mays everts) – Popcorn is a type of flint corn. It has a soft starchy center and a very hard exterior shell. When we heat it, the moisture inside the kernal blows up to become popcorn.

Sweet (Zea saccharata or Zea rugosa) – Sweet corn is the fresh ‘corn-the-cob’ type of corn we eat. It is also canned and frozen and contains more sugars than other types of corn. Field corn has 10% sugars in it but will convert to starch quickly if not eaten soon after picking. That’s why my grandmother use to send us kids to pick the corn right before we put it in boiling water before dinner!

Flour (Zea mays amylase) – Flour corn is used for baking. It is easy to grind because of its soft center. It is mostly white, but can come in other colors like blue corn. It is one of the oldest types of corn grown by Native Americans.

So when I looked them up, I discovered the Hopi Blue corn is a flour corn and the Glass Gem corn is a popcorn which is type of Flint corn. That explains why they look so different.  The flour corn kernals are softer so they shrunk more while the flint corn kernals are hard and retained their shapes. Another ‘ah ha’ moment for me!

‘Glass Gem’ corn

glass gem_corn

Glass Gem corn seed courtesy of Nativeseeds.org

Wow I’ve scored big time in my mind. I just received some ‘Glass Gem’ corn seeds from Native Seeds in Arizona. They are not cheap but usually rare seeds aren’t cheap. This corn is so beautiful with it’s stunning translucent colors. Looks like glass to me. How fitting for a glass blower to grow this corn!

It is actually a popcorn but too beautiful to use it that way so I’m growing it as an ornamental this year so I can save the seeds-and I’m only growing this one corn so I know it won’t cross-pollinate with other corn so I’ll know the seeds will be pure next year. Two years ago I tried to find some of this corn but it was sold out everywhere. One year ago I tried again and still sold out. Marcy mentioned it to me on Facebook this year and I got some-thanks for the reminder Marcy!  To read the story of it go to: Nativeseeds.org

Can’t wait to get it in the ground (but I will) as it is still too soon to start growing here in Santa Fe.