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These multicolored kernels of corn that look like glass beads belong to a specially bred variety, aptly named Glass Gem Corn, and they can be actually grown from seeds. Glass Gem corn was developed by Carl Barnes, a part-Cherokee farmer living in Oklahoma, who noticed that every so often, a cob showed signs of unusual coloring shining through. Barnes collected and saved those seeds, and thanks to his uncanny knack for corn breeding and many years of painstaking effort, Glass Gem corn was born.
When Barnes approached old age, he bestowed his precious seed collection to his friend Greg Schoen and also shared with Schoen the process of breeding the Glass Gem corn. In 2010 Greg decided to move. While moving, he made the determination that he needed to find someone to store and protect his seed collection so that it didn’t get lost or ruined in the moving process. He decided to store the seeds with Seeds Trust, a small seed company in Arizona, ensuring Barnes' spectacular collection of Glass Gem corn seeds wouldn't face the risk of getting lost when he relocated. Curious about the seeds with the peculiar name of Glass Gems, Bill McDorman, owner of Seeds Trust at the time, decided to plant a few of the seeds in his own garden. He was amazed at what the seeds produced.
"I was blown away. No one had ever seen corn like this before,” McDorman told Native Seeds/SEARCH, a nonprofit organization he founded to protect and preserve the agricultural heritage of Native Americans.
The organization now sells Glass Gem seeds through its website for $7.95 (£4.90) per packet, although they are so highly sought-after that they are frequently sold out. The corn can be used to make flour or popcorn, although it is not recommended to eat it straight off the cob.