Indeed, with its magnificent rainbow colors, Glass Gem may well be the most visually stunning corn variety ever. Moreover, the fascinating backstory behind it adds to its allure.
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It all began when Oklahoma farmer, Carl Barnes, embarked on a journey to reconnect with his Native American heritage. In his later years, he started cultivating older corn varieties as a means of rediscovering his roots. With a natural talent for corn breeding, he excelled in carefully selecting and preserving seeds from cobs that displayed vivid, translucent colors. This eventually gave rise to the mesmerizing rainbow-colored corn.
The tale of this extraordinary corn variety was predominantly recounted by Barnes’ protege, Greg Schoen, in 2012 when the Glass Gem corn gained widespread attention and popularity on the internet.
As Barnes delved into the cultivation of these older corn varieties, he achieved the remarkable feat of isolating ancestral types that had been lost to Native American tribes when they were forcibly relocated to what is now Oklahoma in the 1800s. This achievement led to a meaningful exchange of ancient corn seeds with individuals he had met and befriended from all corners of the country.
The exact number of seasons during which he meticulously selected, preserved, and replanted these special seeds remains a mystery. However, after many years of dedicated effort, his painstaking work gave rise to a wondrous corn variety that has captured the hearts of people around the world.
In 1994, a fellow farmer named Greg Schoen crossed paths with Barnes at a Native plant gathering in Oklahoma. Barnes had his rainbow-colored corn proudly on display, leaving Schoen utterly amazed.
The following year, Barnes generously shared some of his rainbow seeds with Schoen, who planted them that summer. This marked the beginning of their collaborative journey.
Schoen and Barnes remained close friends, and over the years, Schoen received additional batches of the rainbow seeds. Initially, Schoen only grew small quantities of the colorful corn in New Mexico, where he had relocated to in 1999.
In 2005, Schoen expanded his cultivation efforts, dedicating larger plots of land near Santa Fe to the rainbow corn, alongside more traditional varieties.
As the rainbow corn intermingled with the traditional varieties, it gave rise to entirely new strains. With each passing year, the corn exhibited increasingly vibrant colors and intricate patterns, a testament to the remarkable genetic diversity that Barnes had carefully preserved and nurtured over time.
Schoen embraced the task of naming the various colors and patterns that emerged from this vibrant corn. He coined names like “circus colors,” “true rainbow,” “deep blue,” and so on, reflecting the kaleidoscope of hues and designs that graced the ears of this extraordinary corn variety.
Schoen eventually settled on the name “Glass Gems” for a striking blue-green and pink-purple corn variety he grew in 2007. This particular variety became the focal point of the original image that went viral in 2012, catapulting the unique-colored corn into an internet sensation.
Since then, Glass Gem has undergone even more meticulous selection and refinement, evolving into the flawless rainbow corn variety that it is today.