American Artisans

American Artisans: Native Seeds/SEARCH

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.

Native Seeds/SEARCH is the twentieth in my Sunday series featuring American Artisans. There are so many exceptionally talented craftspeople, designers, entrepreneurs, and small companies across this country and this is my chance to introduce them to you. These artisans are creating beautiful, useful and delicious products that elevate the experience of everyday cooking, eating, and entertaining. They’re using skills, techniques, and materials that might otherwise be lost in our era of mass production. Their work makes me happy, and I hope it does the same for you.


I just couldn’t resist featuring this amazing organization today, after all, it’s planting season, and this is too cool to pass up.  Native Seeds is headquartered in Tuscon Arizona, and is a leader in the heirloom seed movement.  Founded by Gary Nabhan and Mahina Drees, the pair had the incredible foresight to partner with Native American tribal elders, farmers and gardeners to preserve ancestral seeds before they were lost forever.  From red-seeded watermelons to the amazing Glass Gem corn (above) Native Seeds collects, distributes, and preserves unique and rare crop species.  A lot of smart people think that more genetic diversity in our food crops is essential if we’re all going to survive (i.e. eat!) into the next century.  With global warming, water shortages, and other stresses, our seeds will need to be strong, varied, and super adaptable in the coming years.  Good thing Native Seeds is on the job.

Americsn Artisans: Native Seeds

The seed bank houses approximately 1,900 different accessions of traditional crops from the Apache, Chemehuevi, Cocopah, Gila River Pima, Guarijio, Havasupai, Hopi, Maricopa, Mayo, Mojave, Mountain Pima, Navajo, Paiute, Puebloan, Tarahumara, Tohono O’odham, Yaqui, and other cultures.

American Artisans: Native Seeds

Native Seeds sells their seeds worldwide, and probably the most beautiful, and famous, of them is the eye-popping Glass Gem corn. I’ve shared it a few times on my facebook page and so many of you were fascinated that I thought it would be fun to look into it further.  It was originally bred by a part-Cherokee farmer in Oklahoma named Carl Barnes who carefully selected out the most colorful kernels for replanting.  The corn became an Internet sensation several years ago and called attention to the whole subject of heritage seeds and seed conservation.  You can buy a packet of these seeds for $4.95 and grow them yourself if you’ve got the space!

American Artisans: Native Seeds Glass Gem heirloom corn

American Artisans: native Seeds Glass Gem heirloom corn

You can’t make this stuff up, this is nature at her finest.  I could stare at this corn ALL day.  The colors are real, not photoshopped, and each cob is unique, people who have grown it say that husking it is a thrilling experience because you never know what you’re going to get.  Sadly, you can’t eat this right off the cob, but it can be dried and ground for grits or polenta, and used for popcorn (it pops up white.)  Because of it’s glorious beauty Glass Gem has become a powerful ambassador for the heirloom seed movement.  Do a quick google image search for Glass Gem corn if you want to see more.

American Artisans: Glass Gem Corn

photo by Bill Pusztai

“If we went out today to gather the seeds in our collection, we couldn’t do it. They’re not there.” 

American Artisans: Native Seeds seed saving supplies

Native Seeds offers a nice selection of seed saving supplies if you’re interested and want to try collecting and saving seeds from your own garden.

You can buy all the seeds from their online store, and they sell a line of food (I love the chile powders.)  You can partner with Native Seeds by becoming a member, more info here.  If you’re in or near Tuscon you can visit their retail store and seed library.


    Leave a Reply

  • Reply
    Nancy Flodine
    March 6, 2017 at 7:11 pm

    I would like to buy a few ears of this corn in different colors. Are they available? How much do they cost?

    • Reply
      March 6, 2017 at 7:28 pm

      You can only buy the seeds right now, as far as I know, Nancy, but I think you might be able to find the actual corn sometime in the future.

  • Reply
    May 30, 2016 at 11:04 pm

    This corn is just so super cool, I never knew anything like it existed!

  • Reply
    [email protected] is How I Cook
    May 30, 2016 at 10:17 am

    I’m almost sure that I bought these last year around Halloween. They were so gorgeous that I ended up buying a dozen ears. Can’t wait to get them out this year. Great group!

  • Reply
    Robyn @ Simply Fresh Dinners
    May 30, 2016 at 5:57 am

    I’m mesmerized too, Sue. This makes me smile so big. There is so much beauty in the foods that come from our earth and I suppose that’s why so many of us feel the need to capture it with our cameras. Thanks for sharing something so special.

  • Reply
    [email protected]'s Recipes
    May 29, 2016 at 10:46 pm

    Gosh…the corn is too beautiful to be REAL!

  • Reply
    May 29, 2016 at 7:48 pm

    That is some impressive looking corn, if we could grow corn where we are now I would be buying and planting these seeds straight away. Hope you are having a wonderful long week-end Sue.

  • Reply
    May 29, 2016 at 5:42 pm

    My son has planted some of this- I can’t wait to see how it turns out. Beautiful!

  • Reply
    Anjali @ Vegetarian Gastronomy
    May 29, 2016 at 2:41 pm

    Wow this corn looks beautiful! Almost too gorgeous! I’ve never seen corn like this!

  • Reply
    May 29, 2016 at 2:16 pm

    Wow! That corn is really amazing! How wonderful that there are people who are interested in saving these beautiful seeds! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  • Reply
    Tricia @ Saving room for dessert
    May 29, 2016 at 1:56 pm

    It really does look like it’s made of glass – what a fascinating company. I agree we need to protect our resources and be contributors and not just consumers. Great post!

  • Reply
    May 29, 2016 at 1:37 pm

    That corn is gorgeous! I have never seen a beautiful colourful corn like that in real life though, only on the internet!

    • Reply
      May 29, 2016 at 2:31 pm

      So many people are posting photos of the Glass Gem corn they grow on the internet that it’s clear that it really does look like that, I think it’s fascinating and I’d love to see some in real life :).

  • Reply
    Diane {Created by Diane}
    May 29, 2016 at 12:31 pm

    I just LOVE the gorgeous colors of this corn! I don’t have a green thumb, but we had a large garden when I was a kid with lots of corn and I sure wish it was this pretty!!!

  • Reply
    Chris Scheuer
    May 29, 2016 at 11:27 am

    Wow, that corn is amazing and I’m so thrilled to learn about Native Seeds. Scott is just completing our new raised beds and we are looking for a few more interesting things to plant. Heading over to their site right now!

  • Reply
    May 29, 2016 at 10:58 am

    How incredibly gorgeous! That corn is like jewelry! I am excited to check out Native Seeds now. 🙂

  • Reply
    May 29, 2016 at 10:17 am

    I absolutely love your “American Artisans” series! They are so informative and timely in todays environmental challenges. I want this corn just for its beauty alone, but also to display in my home! Thank-you for these wonderful posts.

    • Reply
      May 29, 2016 at 10:21 am

      Thanks for the support, Ellen, i really appreciate it. I think the idea of using the corn decoratively is a great one, I saw a wreath made out of it that was amazing.

  • Reply
    Jennifer @ Seasons and Suppers
    May 29, 2016 at 9:27 am

    Beautiful! I could stare at it all day, too 🙂

  • Reply
    May 29, 2016 at 9:02 am

    I have always been enamored by these colorful corn seeds but never got hold of them. Hopefully I can get someday

    • Reply
      May 29, 2016 at 9:08 am

      You can buy them inexpensively on this site, Fareeha, so if you live in an area where you can grow corn, you can go for it!

  • Reply
    Dorothy at Shockingly Delicious
    May 29, 2016 at 8:38 am

    I can’t take my eyes off that gorgeouis corn!

    • Reply
      May 29, 2016 at 8:39 am

      I know, I’m mesmerized!