I’ve always enjoyed gardening. I grew up in a house with a garden and a greenhouse, and when I had my own house, I planted gardens there as well. I’m not particularly obsessive about gardening. Mostly I just put seeds or plants in soil and have faith that if I give them water, they’ll grow. My husband has tried a few different ways to automate watering with soaker hoses, but this year we had multiple timers fail and ended up mostly watering by hand.
This year, it seemed like gardening was an even more intense urge for many people. COVID-related food shortages hit just as the growing season was about to begin, and “victory gardens” were a way to have control over something. It means you have to get outside. It means you can see time progressing. It means you can show your kids a science lesson about biology and sustainability and how humans and nature interact.
I grew all sorts of things in my garden this year. I’ve got perennial figs, columnar apples, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, artichokes, lavender, thyme, and rosemary. I planted tomatoes, onions, beets, carrots, basil, parsley, chives, beans, broccoli, cauliflower, and squash. I know I just said I wasn’t obsessive about gardening. I swear I just put all those things in dirt and they grew.
This year I tried something new: Glass Gem corn. I wasn’t sure how well corn would do in Portland’s relatively mild summers, and I was particularly skeptical when I received a very small bag with only a dozen dried kernels of corn. But I took those seeds and put them in the soil. I had faith that if I gave them water, they would grow. The results were completely worth it. No filters, no photoshop. Each ear of corn is colorful and unique.
We learned a few things about corn through this experiment. Corn is a grass that pollinates through wind power. As you grow corn, it grows both “silks” which become the ears of corn and tassels which produce pollen. The wind then blows the pollen from the tassels to the silks to create the seeds of corn inside the ears. (Or you can do this by hand)
The variety of corn we chose was Glass Gem corn, which has an amazing history you should read about here. This is not sweet corn that you eat off the cob. Glass Gem is a flint type corn that can be ground for flour or popped like popcorn. After harvesting, we found that some of the kernels had, in fact, popped right on the cob with the summer heat.
We plan on displaying our corn. We may try popping some of it, although it seems too pretty to eat. And we’re definitely saving some seeds to repeat this experiment next year. If you have space for a garden and a climate that supports it, consider Glass Gem corn.