Carl Barnes, an Oklahoma farmer, started using older varieties of native corn as a way to get in touch with his Cherokee ancestry.
He rediscovered and isolated nearly forgotten heirloom strains of seeds and began farming and selectively breeding them to bear the most brilliant colors. The result is Glass Gem Corn, a variety whose kernels glisten like polished, Technicolor gemstones.
In the spirit of keeping this part of his Native American heritage alive, Barnes shared the exciting new strain of seeds with native tribe leaders and farmers he’d met around the country.
Barnes passed away in April, 2016 at the age of 87 in his home state, and the farmers he influenced continue to build upon his legacy. Barnes’s friend and former student Greg Schoen experimented with breeding the strain with yellow corn after the special seeds had been passed onto him. He in turn introduced the seeds to Bill McDorman, the executive director of the nonprofit Native Seeds/SEARCH.
According to an account from Schoen, Barnes told him that the rainbow seed originally came from a crossing of “Pawnee miniature popcorns with an Osage red flour corn and also another Osage corn called ‘Greyhorse.’”
The Glass Gem Corn seeds are now available for anyone to purchase from the organization’s website. A single packet costs $4.95, and all profits go toward helping conserve the USA’s native crops.
What a marvelous addition to anyone’s garden and gosh, they’re just so darned pretty! But aside from their newly created beauty, the legacy of Native American ancestry is preserved and passed on in a truly gorgeous way.