Job's Tears - A Fascinating Plant
(Editor's Note: This article was originally published onDecember 3, 2008)
Although difficult to verify, Job's Tears may get its name from the biblical Job of the Old Testament, who probably shed many tears from the suffering he endured.
Job's Tears is native to East Asia and Malaysia and in the U.S has naturalized to Hawaii, Louisiana, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Tennessee. Cultivated in gardens throughout the world, it is hardy in USDA zones 9a through10b. Job's Tears grows as a perennial in areas without frost; on the east coast, it is grown primarily as an annual. It is listed as a weed in Polynesia, Italy, Korea, Hawaii, Iran, Japan, and other areas. 
Growing Job's Tears
Grasses such as Job's Tears are easy to germinate and can be direct sown or grown in large pots. It likes to be watered and, in the U.S., is considered a wetland indicator.
Dave's Garden administrator, "Mystic" in Ewing, Kentucky recommends soaking the seeds before sowing. She and several other Dave's Garden members say their plants grew well in full sun and self-sowed for many years.
According to a post by Dave's Garden member, "Badseed" in Lynchburg, Ohio, Job's Tears can reach up to 10 feet tall in warmer climates. Normally, however, it grows 4 to 6 feet tall. Petunias or other flowers nearby make a nice enhancement to the tall, grassy foliage, which resembles a corn stalk. The inconspicuous green blooms appear in late summer to early fall, preceding the most fascinating feature of this plant: its bead-like seeds that seem to pop out in a continuous string from the stalk. As the seeds mature, their colors turn from pea green to shades of green-brown and dark chocolate.
Beads are made from the seeds
Not only are the seeds fascinating to watch as they emerge, they are really fun to use in crafts. The seed has a small hole in the center, which makes it a perfect choice for use as a bead in jewelry.
Patricia Capotosto, who designs wire art jewelry in Oak Park, Illinois, creates beautiful jewelry using wire and ancient Egyptian Art techniques. Her beautiful Job's Tears bracelets are made from plants she grows herself in her backyard. She made a bracelet for a cousin recovering from breast cancer, lovely rosaries for an aunt who lost her vision and lives in a nursing home, and for her granddaughter when she made her confirmation.
When I spoke to Patricia, she commented, "The plant grows quickly and the seeds are so plentiful that it doesn't pay to try and grow it indoors. It even produces a nice crop in a midwest summer."
Patricia's tips for making jewelry
Patricia picks the seeds for use in her jewelry when they are somewhat firm and green. She says, "After picking them they will continue to change color. Place them on a flat surface so they can dry and harden. This should take a few weeks. You need to use your own judgment, since the timing will vary with each seed--some will be ready sooner than others."
She also mentioned, "To prepare the seeds for use in jewelry, you must ream out the natural hole in the seed. Anyone who does stringing or uses beads to create jewelry, will know what a reamer is. The reed on which the seed grows remains in the hole and must first be removed, so you can place a string or wire in the hole."
Job's Tears are edible and valued in the Far East
Job's Tears are more common in products sold in Asia. During the Vietnam War, Job's Tears was a staple in the South, when supplies of rice were low. Here in the U.S. it is mainly sold in bead shops for use in jewelry and in health food stores for use as a grain. Most Americans are more familiar with cereal grains such as rice, wheat, barley and corn.
To find Job's Tears in a health food store, ask for "Hatomugi", a Japanese term for Job's Tears. Hatomugi initially came to Japan from China and is used in traditional Japanese Kampo herbal medicine. The grain is valued as a nutritious food and has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine to support beautiful hair, skin and nails, and as a digestive aide, among other claims.
In some U.S. specialty markets, and China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Japan, Korea and other parts of the world, Job's Tears is available as flakes or powder and often added to other grains and to bath products, candy, liquors, vinegar and tea.
Food scientists have found that Job's Tears are a rich source of phytochemicals, having actions of an anti-inflammatory, as well as a detoxifying agent.
Like most cereal grains, Job's Tears is nutritious, containing essential amino acids, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Compared with medium grain brown rice, it has about the same amount of B-complex vitamins and food energy (360 -380 k.calories) per 100g, but has higher amounts of calcium (435mg vs 268mg) and iron (5.0mg vs 1.8mg), and double the amount of protein (15.4 g vs 7.5g).
Cancer Fighting Properties
Compounds that inhibit human cancer cells were isolated from Job's Tears bran in a recent study by researchers in Taiwan. Their study analyzed the bran from Coix lachrymal-jobi var. ma-yuen. Job's Tears bran is a waste product from the processing of Job's Tears.
Special thanks to jewelry designer, Patricia Capotosto. Click here to visit her website.
Jewelry photos used with permission. Copyright © 2008 Patricia Capostosto. All rights Reserved. All other photos Copyright © 2008 Wind.
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 USDA Agricultural Research Service. Nutrient Data Laboratory. Rice, brown, medium-grain, raw. Accessed Oct. 3, 2008.
Purdue University NewCROP Program. Duke JA. Handbook of Energy Crops. Coix lacryma-jobi L. Chemistry. Accessed Sept. 28, 2008.
 Lee MY, Lin HY, Cheng F, Chiang W, et al.. Isolation and characterization of new lactam compounds that inhibit lung and colon cancer cells from adlay (Coix lachryma-jobi L. var. ma-yuen Stapf) bran. Food and Chemical Toxicology. 2008: 1933-1939.