As the sun rose, vibrant shades of purple, pink and yellow glimmered, playing hide and seek from the protective husks of the glass gem corn. City-based sustainable farmers Abhinav Gangumalla and Renu Rao rejoiced as they harvested the corn after years of trial and error at their farm at Kaukuntla, near Vikarabad in Hyderabad.
For Renu Rao, a designer by profession, who is Abhinav’s partner at the farm, holding the corn in their hands for the first time was quite a momentous affair. Glass gem corns, a crop native to North America, are vibrant-hued corn kernels that look like gems. “We have been trying to crack the process since 2013 but finally managed to grow this rare species of corn. We are ecstatic,” says an excited Renu.
The duo had planted the crop’s seeds in November last year and harvested it in February this year. “Initially, we waited imagining that the final crop will be of the normal size of corn. But despite being fully grown, the corn was only one-third the size of the corn we usually get in India,” Abhinav explains.
As regards their repeated failed attempts to grow the glass gem corns, “Telangana soil is very different from that of the native environment of these corns, so to grow them here, we had to use raised beds of black soil," explains Renu. “But from now on, we plan to plant the seeds in both red and black soils to check if they grow in the same manner or not.”
Bringing back biodiversity
Since their inception in 2014, the farm ‘Beyond Organic’ has been conserving native seeds and growing new varieties in a seasonal manner. Abhinav and Renu, who travel for extensively their respective works, get seeds of plants and veggies local to the regions they travel to, hoping to can grow them at their farm, too. With the latest addition of glass gem corn, both Abhinav and Renu are all gung-ho about working together towards biodiversity in the future, too. As we come to the end of our interaction, Abhinav tells us that all the produce from the farm are for personal consumption. “We distribute them to our near and dear ones, too. Sometimes, we get calls from chefs asking if we can produce speciality crops, which is when we produce and sell commercially. For the future, we are looking forward to expanding our horizon of biodiversity while raising awareness among others about it,” he says concluding.