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How to Plant Rainbow Corn in Your Garden

There's nothing better than biting into a juicy ear of corn. It's sweet and crunchy and a great way to kick off summer. I especially love to grill my corn cobs and slather them in butter right after they come off the grill. With six different corn varieties, it turns out there are plenty of uses for corn besides serving it as a side dish; Corn can be used in corn syrup, cornmeal, corn starch, and even these colorful unicorn grits.

If you plan on growing corn this year, why not try a new type of corn that became insanely popular a few years back? Rainbow corn, also known as Glass Gem corn, is a unique variety of rainbow-colored corn that became popular in 2012 after a picture went viral on Facebook.  As with all things, increased demand for the colorful corn meant that their parent company had to speed up production to keep up with consumer demand. Native Seeds sells Glass Gem corn as well as several other varieties of seeds. Fortunately, demand has slowed down a little and it shouldn't be too hard to get your hands on this gorgeous corn.

The story behind rainbow corn is also pretty interesting. It all started with Carl Barnes, an Oklahoma farmer who started crossing Native American tribe corn varieties to explore and connect to his Cherokee heritage. Eventually, this produced some colorful cobs and caught the attention of grower, Greg Schoen. Carl Barnes gave Greg Schoen some of the rainbow corn seeds and he started planting away. Each year, the colors became more vibrant with different patterns throughout. Schoen gave several varieties of the corn seeds to Bill McDorman, who owned an Arizona seed company. Eventually, the rainbow corn seeds became readily available to gardeners through Native Seeds.

rainbow corn

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Now, you can buy a packet of these rainbow corn seeds to plant in your own garden this year. It's best to start planting seeds after the last frost in late spring once the weather is warm. Corn likes full sun and plants can grow about 6 feet tall. Plant rainbow corn seeds about 1 inch deep and around 6-12 inches apart. Corn cobs will be ready to harvest about 110-120 days after planting, once the husks are dry and brown. Once you pull back the husk, you'll be in for a colorful surprise with the different shades and patterns on every cob.

So, what does rainbow corn taste like? Unlike sweet corn, rainbow corn isn't one to eat straight off the cob. It's a type of flint corn that has a hard outer layer, which is great to grind down into cornmeal for dishes like grits and polenta. Glass Gem corn can also be used to make popcorn, but sadly, it doesn't come out rainbow colored.

Whether you plan on eating rainbow corn or just using it for decorative purposes, there's no doubt you'll love the beauty from these multicolored cobs.

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