Rare Exotic Plants For The Backyard Garden – Part 5 – Corn, Peas, And Peppers

Corn, Peas, And Peppers Are Rare Exotic Plants?

For some, it’s a stretch of the imagination to think that there are varieties of corn, peas, and peppers that would classify as rare – or exotic – or unusual – or curiously bizarre.  But, I’ve found a few that might pique the interest of any gardener looking for something new and remarkable to grow in their veggie plot.

Take a look at these uniquely authentic plants that not only look fresh and innovative – but taste great as well!


Glass Gem Corn

Glass Gem Corn

Don’t expect to eat this corn right off the cob – because, the kernels have a pretty darn hard outer layer.  Growing it is the same as growing that extra sweet corn that tastes so good on the cob.

Besides being colorful enough to be a beautiful ornamental plant, glass gem corn – also called “flint corn” or “Indian corn” – can be turned into popcorn or ground into cornmeal.

Then, the cornmeal can be used to make corn bread – or grits – or slathered as a coating for deep frying fish, chicken, or fried green tomatoes.

Cornmeal can also be used as an exfoliating mask and even as a deodorant – believe it or not!

But, first things first.  Before making the popcorn or cornmeal, the corn kernels need to be dehydrated.


The Dehydration Process
  1. Toss the ears of glass gem corn into boiling water and blanch them for about 5 minutes.
  2. Next, shock them in an ice water bath until they cool down enough to handle.
  3. Now, the kernels can easily be removed by running a sharp knife down the side of the ear. TIP:  Keep your fingers out of the way – and, if the corn cob is too slippery to hold firmly, remove excess water with a paper towel and get a firm grip before slicing away.

Excalibur – 9 tray version

  1. Get out your trusty dehydrator. The one I use exclusively is the Excalibur – 9 tray version.
  2. Spread a single layer of kernels evenly on each dehydrator tray. Try to keep a little air space between kernels if possible.  It helps speed up the drying.
  3. Follow the directions and crank up the dehydrator. With my Excalibur dehydrator, the kernels are hard and crispy in 14 to 20 hours – depending on how moist they were when the process began.

 jar sealers - regular mouth and wide-mouth jarsFoodsaver vacuum system







  1. With the dehydration process complete, it’s time to get out the Mason jars, 100cc oxygen absorbers, jar sealers (one for regular mouth jars and / or one for wide-mouth jars), and the Foodsaver Vacuum System. I like to use wide-mouth Mason jars – but, regular mouth jars will work, too.
  2. Load the dehydrated corn kernels into a Mason jar – leaving about an inch of space at the top.
  3. Drop in a 100cc oxygen absorber and put the flat lid on the jar without the screw-on band.
  4. Slide the jar sealer over the top of the lidded Mason Jar – and hook it up through the hose attachment to the Foodsaver – then, vacuum that puppy for a lasting airtight seal!

The kernels will last f-o-r-e-v-e-r!  Or, at least until you’re ready to make popcorn or cornmeal.


Making Popcorn
  1. Heat a couple tablespoons of oil for a minute or two in a 3 or 4 quart pan – I use canola but, actually, peanut oil works a little better.
  2. Throw in several kernels of corn. When they pop, the oil is hot enough to pop some corn.
  3. Toss in a quarter cup of kernels and put the lid on quickly to keep the popcorn from flying all over the kitchen. (It happened to me – and what a mess it was!)
  4. Shake the pan back and forth over the heat and listen for the popping. When 3 or 4 seconds elapses between pops, the popcorn is ready for additional treatment with butter, salt, garlic, parmesan cheese, or whatever topical adornments you love the most!  NOTE:  All those colorful kernels will disappear – replaced by traditional white popcorn.


Making Cornmeal

Ninja Mega Kitchen System (BL770)

The most important part of this process is having a super strong and superbly powerful blender.  I choose my Ninja MEGA Kitchen System for this task.  Ninja makes short work out of pulverizing corn kernels into cornmeal – that’s for sure!

Dump the kernels in the blender and start off at the lowest speed possible.  I like to “pulse” my Ninja for awhile – until the kernels begin to disintegrate – then, I gradually increase the speed until I get a fine grind of cornmeal.

With my Ninja, it only takes a couple of minutes to get a fine cornmeal consistency – somewhat like sand.  It will take a bit longer with a puny, feeble, discount blender.

Pop the finished cornmeal into some Mason jars, add a 100cc oxygen absorber, and vacuum pack with the Foodsaver vacuum system – just as described in steps 7 through 10 of The Dehydration Process.  This will keep the cornmeal fresh for a year.  Refrigerating it will add a little more to the storage life.


If you opt to use Foodsaver bags instead of Mason jars, make sure you have enough of them on hand to finish the job!


Where To Buy?

My go-to sources for glass gem corn seeds are:

Burpee glass gem corn seeds

Burpee – They offer a range of translucent, multi-colored kernels – in its 200 seed packet.

Ivy Bee Seeds – Who are quick to let us know that their glass gem Indian corn heirloom seeds produce the “most beautiful corn in the world!”

Purple Podded Peas

Purple Podded Peas

The Dutch call them “blauwschokker” peas – meaning, “blue pod” peas.  Well – blue – purple – the colors are close relatives – thus, in English, they became “purple podded” peas.

These unique looking veggies were first introduced to the Netherlands and Germany in medieval times by monks.

The taste is bland at best – nothing to write home about.  However, they are tender – even when eaten raw.  I lean towards stripping the peas out of the pods and boiling them in water – and then add them to other dishes.

Purple podded peas make great soup!  Holland is famous for a stew called Snert – which is made up of purple podded peas – along with pork, onions, potatoes, and carrots – a meal that will definitely stick to your ribs.

Many gardeners grow purple podded peas more for their looks than for their flavor.  These colorful peas make great ornamental plants – that are edible.  Seeing them gracing a trellis tunnel is a sight to behold!

Grow them just like any other peas – and, once they get a foothold, they’ll soon grow so abundantly that they can actually be used as a privacy fence.Burpee heirloom purple podded pea seeds

Burpee has the best heirloom purple podded pea seeds available.  It usually takes 2 months from planting to pod picking time.  The plants will get 4 feet high – giving you 3 inch pods – and can be grown in any hardiness zone 1 through 11.


Chinese Five Color Peppers

Chinese Five Color Peppers

With a random array of colors – purple, cream-colored, yellow, orange, and red – what great peppers these are – to grow and liven up a garden with bursts of vivid, electrifying colors!

Warning!  These peppers are surprisingly spicy and hot – quite a bit hotter than the cayenne peppers I normally grow.  But, even though they’re extra hot and spicy, they are also a tad sweet – which is an interesting combination of tastes.

Chinese five color peppers are just as easy to grow and use – in the same way you would grow and use any other kind of spicy, hot peppers.  Making salsa with them is an all-time favorite of mine.  Putting a few thin slices in a salad – or, using them to make a “five alarm” cheese dip is right up there at the top of my list, too!

If you decide to grow these just one time, you will love them so much that you’ll be growing them season after season after season.  Guaranteed!

Use the “how to grow peppers” page for an easy step-by-step method for growing these great veggies.

Here are several excellent sources for Chinese five color peppers:

Harley Store - Chinese five color peppersJaytibby - Chinese five color peppersSolution Seeds Farm - Chinese five color peppers






Harley Store – has them as a rare heirloom.  They can also be grown in containers – which make it great for folks with no garden space.

Jaytibby – offers seeds from their organic home grown stock.  They ship their seeds to anywhere that does not have restrictions prohibiting it.

Solutions Seeds Farm – touts 75 days from seed to harvest.  But, that’s a typical growth cycle for peppers anyway – give or take a week or so.


And – There You Have It!

If you liked Part 5 of Rare Exotic Plants For The Backyard Garden, you may also want to take a gander at some of the other editions:

Part 1 – Beans

Part 2 – Berries

Part 3 – Cucumbers

Part 4 – Squash

Leave a comment or email me if you have anything you would like added to my listings of rare plants for the home gardener!


Jim, the Lifelong Gardener



11 thoughts on “Rare Exotic Plants For The Backyard Garden – Part 5 – Corn, Peas, And Peppers

  1. Kaju Reply

    WOW Jim, I never realized how much we can do with Corn, Pea Pods, and Peppers – this is truly Amazing!

    I really learned a whole lot from Jim the Lifelong Gardner, marketer ( and fellow musician)!

    Excellent post!


    • Jim Post authorReply

      Glad you liked it, Kaju.

      More to come – so stay tuned…


  2. Paul Reply

    Dear Jim,

    We have a backyard and I love gardening!

    Thanks a lot for the insightful and informative post. My wife and myself are lovers of Glass Gem Corn and we love pop corn. The step by step instruction on making pop corn is very helpful and I am unaware that making pop corn is so easy. For sure gonna try it. The uses of cornmeal is amazing.

    I got helpful insights about Purple Podded Peas and after reading your post I am interested in planting Purple Podded Peas in my garden. 

    Peppers are my favorite and we use it in 80% to 90% of our food and your article on “How To Grow Peppers” is highly informative and I learned a lot of new things.

    I will have to go back to your post a few times just to grasp all of that valuable information. You definitely have done your research and I am bookmarking your post.

    Much Success!


    • Jim Reply

      Hi Paul,

      There’s nothing better than chowing down on a big ole bowl of popcorn made from Glass Gem Corn.  It makes me want to get out a good DVD and enjoy some movie and popcorn time!

      Glad you got some tips from my Growing Peppers page!  I hope it helps your pepper gardening efforts!


  3. Pentrental Reply

    Wow these are some unique vegetables for the garden here!  I enjoy popcorn so the glass gem corn is right up my alley. I appreciate a thorough explanation of the dehydration process and the Excalibur looks pretty phenomenal and well rated. Burpee is a great place to buy seeds I agree. Purple prodded peas look like a nice soup addition, maybe with some black bean soup or like you referenced Snert. The peas inside look pretty high quality. I’ve never heard of the Chinese peppers and I love spicy food so I can’t wait to try these out in some crock pot chili. Ok now I’m hungry. I’m definitely bookmarking your site so that I can refer back to all these great products, thank you!

    • Jim Reply

      There are a few other quality sources I use for seeds besides Burpee – but, they are my go-to place for high germination rates and exceptional seed for most veggies and fruits.

      The Excalibur is certainly a great addition to anyone’s kitchen for food preservation.

      And, don’t get me started on crock pot chili – now, I’m getting hungry, too!



  4. Babsie Wagner Reply

    This article couldn’t have come my way at a better time.  My sons and I are thinking of preserving food from our garden this year, and this looks like some great alternatives.   Storing food is critical.  You just never know in this world what could happen, there are so many things that could disrupt the food supply, and these techniques could save my family in an emergency.  The dehydrator is awesome!  I love all these exotic breeds of plants, too.  Yummy!

    • Jim Reply

      Hi Babs,

      I’ve owned a number of different dehydrators over the years – and, I have to say that the Excalibur dehydrator is by far the best and most efficient one I’ve ever used.  Matter of fact, I’ve got TWO of them – that are usually working simultaneously – especially throughout harvest season!

      Preserving food should be a priority for any family.  You never know when a natural disaster could strike – and, leave you without the ability to replenish your food supply.  That’s when you’ll thank your lucky stars that you had the foresight to put some Mason jars full of nutritious veggies, fruits, and meats in your pantry!


      • Babs Reply

        You’re so right! I hear about these problems with Iran, I feel like the world is just in such turmoil. Anyway, your site is great, and I appreciate you!

  5. Gwendolyn J Reply


    I am an aspiring gardener and an herbalist. I have already bookmarked your page so I can come back to it for reference when I finally get my garden started.

    I love the idea of making my own cornmeal. I would also be interested in trying a gluten-free flour. Is that possible with corn or rice in the Ninja?

    My family loves peppers so I’ll be shopping around for those Chinese ones you mentioned.

    Do you have an herb garden? Any tips on starting one in limited space?

    Thanks for the info. I will be back for more!

    Gwendolyn J

    • Jim Reply

      Hi Gwendolyn,

      The Ninja will break down corn into a sandy consistency that will give you a decent cornmeal – but, to reach the super fine powdery texture of flour, you’ll need an appliance tool that is designed for the task.

      My favorite is the Wonder Mill Electric Grain Mill Grinder.  It’s heavy duty and can grind just about anything – including wheat, corn, and rice – into flour.  With a lifetime warranty, this little gem is hard to beat!

      Buy your herb plants from a local garden store and, if you’re keeping them inside, line them up on a windowsill that gets at least 6 hours of sun daily – keeping the soil moist but not soggy.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *