This photo has not been Photoshopped. It’s real, edible corn, and photos of its glassy, vibrantly colored kernels have been going viral across various forms of social media since 2012.
It’s called “Carl’s Glass Gems,” named after its creator, Carl Barnes, a half-Cherokee, half-Scotch-Irish farmer from Oklahoma. Barnes took an interest in farming at a young age, with his grandfather teaching him about the Native American traditions surrounding planting, harvesting and honoring seeds, according to Mother Earth News.
As an adult, he began saving seeds from unusually colorful cobs and replanting them, eventually developing Carl’s Glass Gems in the 1980s. To ensure the breed of corn lived on, Barnes gave his seed collection to his protege, Greg Schoen, who began harvesting the maize on a larger scale — and developing even more color variations — in 2005 in Santa Clara Canyon, N.M.
Eventually, Schoen passed on samples of different corn varieties to Bill McDorman, who owned a small family seed company at the time and is now director of Tucson, Ariz.-based Native Seeds/SEARCH, a “nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and propagation of hundreds of traditional and indigenous crop seeds from the American Southwest and northern Mexico.”
Native Seeds/SEARCH now sells the Glass Gem seeds, though they’re in high demand thanks to all the online publicity. In case you’re planning on buying the seeds, growing the corn and throwing it on the grill so you can eat it off the cob with your hamburger, don’t. The Glass Gems are flint corn, which means they’re not edible right off the cob. But you can grind it into cornmeal and make polenta or cornbread, or pop it.
Check out the slideshow below to view some of the incredible color variations.