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Job's Tears -- coix lacryma-jobi -- Adlay -- I have questions  RSS feed

 
gardener
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The new Baker's Creek's seed catalog hit my mailbox and I have been reading it.  This is always dangerous.

One of the items in it is Job's Tears, described thusly and with a pretty tempting picture:


Is it an herb, grain, vegetable, or ornamental bead? This easy-to-grow plant is all these things and more! With graceful and flowing miniature corn-type bladed leaves, sturdy stalks, delicate inconspicuous drooping flowers, and ornamental pea-like seeds, Job’s Tears adds a stunning green filler to cut flower displays. A grain-bearing plant useful for food, to make necklaces, rosary beads, and even traditionally in folk medicine for arthritis and to remove heat! Once the husk has been removed for cooking, the grains look more like oversized pearl barley. Great in brothy dishes and traditional Asian drinks, Job’s Tears provides a chewy, mildly sweet, and earthy flavor that has caught the eye of discerning cooks. It has lovingly been called by cookbook authors “the next cult gluten-free grain” and an “unusual, versatile, and beneficial little weirdo.”





This YouTube video shows that the wide variety of pretty colors is present when the seeds are still on the plant:



My food interest is the "great in brothy dishes" bit -- I am always making vegetable soups and having a handful of largy chewy grains to throw in each batch would be awesome.  An attractive grain plant to grow is obviously not unwelcome either and I have crafters in my life who would not mind pretty free beads.  

But the part I'm not clear on is this: is there a necessary hand-threshing step between those pretty colored beadlike grains we see on the plant and in the Baker's Creek photo, and the food grain I would be throwing in my soup pot?  Google and YouTube are emphatically not answering this question!  The food grain version of this sold in 1lb bags in Asian groceries is a pretty pearly white, but is that because of a machine polishing step? Or is there a husk or hull that must be removed by hand (or machine) before human consumption?

What I'm trying to figure out is whether growing this stuff on a small home scale is reasonable or practical or fun or worthwhile.  If I order fifteen seeds from Baker's Creek, and get a yield on the order of a few cups or a few quarts, is it only useful for beads?  Will I be tearing husks/hulls off, one-by-one, with tweezers, before throwing them in my soup?  Or is it edible/cookable as it comes off the plant?

I would be delighted to hear from anybody who has grown and eaten this stuff as to what the processing steps are.  Thanks!
 
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I would also like to know more about Job's Tears.  Some years ago, I looked into it as a crop for a marshy, tropical region.  I remember reading that there were different cultivars.  One, bred as a food crop allegedly more readily released from the hull, unlike the varieties I'd seen growing around.  I was keen to find some of this variety to try, but mostly came up empty.  Someone suggested combing packages of it to find some missed in the hulling that might germinate.  
 
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I know from eating it in Korea that they are definitely hulled like barley.

There appear to be two types, a hard-hull type (the bead ones, a wild variety, var lacryma-jobi) and a soft-hull type (that you can eat as grain or brew with, var ma-yuen).
 
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I am already growing the wild variety (and doing nothing with it), I now have to find the edible one.
Thanks.
 
Dan Boone
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But that's the question, isn't it?  Are the bead types purely decorative, or is it just a matter of threshing them to achieve edibility?  Certainly the Baker's Creek listing seems to suggest that they think they're selling a product that's at once edible and decorative.  (But of course they may be wrong.)  

There are a lot of YouTube videos, very few in English.  A few show the colorful grains on the plant, most show a more uniform grain that's described as being grey or brown.  (I'm color vision impaired, so don't ask me.)  There doesn't appear to be enough use of this plant in the English speaking world for the question to have been hashed out in an accessible way anywhere that I can find.  
 
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Dan, I had a similar reaction when receiving my Baker Creek catalog too a few weeks ago. I wanted to plant Job's Tear for the "beads" so I was excited. Then I was very intrigued that it is used for food. I began my research using all the various names I was coming across. I have some "beads" from a broken necklace. My husband used pliers to crack one open. The little morsel of meat had a pleasant nutty grain flavor. Knowing it cracked like a pecan, I began looking for dehullers. What I found designed for this pretty plant is in China either commercially or expensive individual units from the Larger brand in China. That was not what I wanted. Evidently, the US is behind in creating grain processing appliances for the homestead. I say all this to say one company, Grainmaker, does have a dehuller and Mills for home use. It is a little pricey, but selling beads, jewelry, and flour from this cute little grain may recoup the cost. Also, upon reading further, it seems all seed bearing plants are prohibited from entering the US due to possible invasiveness and disease. All foods containing seeds are also irradiated at customs port of entry to prevent growth and possible contamination. It's possible my facts are wrong but that's what I found this far. Hope it helps! From a soon to be homesteader.
 
Dan Boone
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Paula, Welcome to permies. Your research got a little further than mine did -- good job!  

Yes, the Grainmaker products look incredibly solid, though I agree it may be too expensive for casual home use.  As you mention, though, the expense (deductible!) could be easily justified by any domestic-industrial entrepreneurial scheme.  

Here are the links I found: a $275 huller kit for an up-engineered $675 hand-cranked grain mill -- there's a .pdf brochure here.  They say the dehuller works on "many grains" but I still couldn't find with Google any specific discussion of using it on the Job's Tears.  Did you find somebody who was using it for that?
 
Paula Byrd
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Hello and thanks. Glad I found this site. To answer your question, no I haven't found a specific quote about adlay, job's tears, or croix seed. What I did find was several about "hard shell" grains. When looking up the various hard shelled/hulled grains, they all seem to be similar size. I am using deductive reasoning that if the dehuller was made for those smaller grains, it in theory should work on Job's Tears since it is if similar size and hardness.
 
Dan Boone
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I agree with your reasoning and honestly those mills look like they could make iron filings out of steel BB shot.  However I don't mind saying I would sure rather have some other intrepid pilgrim shell out the thousand bucks and make the experiment with respect to any one particular grain before I bought it for that specific purpose!

Having said that, I can think of half a dozen different reasons why, if I had a thousand bucks I wasn't using, I'd purely admire to own that unit anyway...
 
Paula Byrd
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Absolutely! That's a big expense. We just bought our property. Just call us late in life bloomers. Our money at first will go into first things first like fencing, septic system, garage and workshop  etc. I want to grow that pretty ruby buckwheat too. Not a lot, just a bit to see how it goes. That $1000 luxury will be on down the road some. But I am still going to keep doing research.
 
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