When people hear the word “corn,” the image that usually pops into mind is a juicy, warm and fresh ear of corn on the cob fresh from a roadside stand or the farmers market. Corn can also conjure up the image of popcorn that people munch when they are watching a movie or just chilling at home.
Although a lot of people are used to seeing white and yellow kernels when they peel back the husk along with the silk, some corn varieties are so visually pleasing that they will make people’s jaws drop. Best of all, this type of corn is edible.
Enter rainbow corn, also known as glass gem corn. This vegetable, fruit and grain (yes, folks, this popular ingredient can fall under any of the three categories) can make your home garden more colorful.
What is Rainbow Corn?
Rainbow corn is a kind of colorful corn that perfectly combines utility and beauty. Each corn is unique, as the glass gem corn seeds can spawn dozens of different combinations and colors. You won’t have an idea of what they will look like until you get rid of the husk.
Every cob is a surprise. You can even up with shiny pastel kernels. You could also discover kernels in the shades of red or blue. Then, there are kernels with multicolored ears. Given how unique and colorful rainbow corn is, people grow this vegetable for its ornamental appeal.
A Short History of the Rainbow Corn
Although the vibrant colors of the rainbow corn are what first draw people in, its history is just as interesting.
The story of this corn started before the 1800s when Native Americans grew ancestral types of corn. The native tribes used sustainable and traditional practices to grow a range of corn. Over time, though, some ancestral strains got lost.
Fast forward to the 20th century, Carl Barnes, a farmer from Oklahoma, set out to grow older varieties of corn to help reconnect with his Cherokee heritage. Barnes was able to isolate ancestral strains that were unfortunately lost to tribes when European settlements relocated them to what’s now called Oklahoma. He started to exchange ancient corn seeds with people he had met and befriended all across the nation.
Barnes began choosing seeds from the most colorful cobs. This selective breeding resulted in the creation of rainbow-colored corn. Although he has passed on, many remember him with gratitude for his work to share, preserve and collect native corn varieties.
Tips When Growing Rainbow Corn
Just like the butter lettuce, rainbow corn isn’t too hard to grow. All this corn needs is the right conditions.
Take note that rainbow corn seeds are something that you won’t see at your everyday garden store. The good news is you can purchase these seeds online.
Once you have the seeds, position them in an area of full sun. The glass gem corn requires plenty of sunlight and warmth during the summer months to flourish well.
Another thing to remember is that rainbow corn is flint corn. This means that it will need a longer season to come to maturity. Growing this where the season is short may be difficult to pull off.
As for the soil, make sure to plant the glass gem corn in fertile soil. If this isn’t possible, don’t fret, as it can still grow well at a range of pH levels and in a range of soil types. The soil needs to be moist but free-draining. What’s more, sufficient moisture should be available through the growing season.
Rainbow Corn Plant Care
One of the major problems when taking care of glass gem corns is wind. Strong winds can affect the growth of the plant. You can encourage the rainbow corn to grow by taking measures to keep it safe from the wind.
You could, for instance, invest in windbreaks — six-foot-tall fences designed to safeguard the stalks from the wind.
As for watering, corn doesn’t need a lot of water. Simply sprinkle water approximately an inch deep when you find that the soil is getting dry.
Cooking with Rainbow Corn
Although rainbow corn looks pretty, you should not expect this plant to be like regular corn. As flint corn, it has a tough outer shell, which means that you won’t be able to bite into it easily.
If you want to cook with this type of corn, you’ll need to process it first. This involves blanching the corn for at least three minutes, cutting off the kernels and using a dehydrator.
Once dehydrated, you can whip up delicious rainbow popcorn — a corn recipe you should definitely add to your recipe list.
Here are the steps to making glass gem popcorn:
- Heat a few tablespoons of coconut oil on a large pot with a lid.
- Add one-third cup of dried rainbow corn kernels to the pot.
- Put the lid on. Then, remove from the heat for about 30 seconds.
- Return the pot to heat and repeat the process every half a minute until the popcorn pops.
- Add salt, butter, caramel or other ingredients to taste.
Rainbow corn may not be like sweet corn, but you can make colorful and delicious popcorn out of it. If you don’t want to eat it, you could use this plant to give color to your backyard or decorate your home for the autumn season.