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What are Job's Tears?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Job's tears are the grains of a tropical Asian grass, Coix lacryma-jobi. These grains have a number of uses, from foods to ornaments, and they appear to have been harvested and cultivated for thousands of years. Many Asian markets sell them in their grain sections for cooking. Beaders and craftspeople also use the grains, and they may be found at beading and craft stores for this purpose.

The common name for Job's tears comes from their distinctive teardrop shape, although the tears are sometimes ascribed to different people, such as Mary's tears, Christ's tears, and so forth. The plant does not appear to have any religious significance, despite the Biblical references in its common names, although the grains are sometimes used as the beads in rosaries. The scientific name suggests that the plant was originally known as Job's tears, whatever else it might be called, since this is what lachryma-jobi means.

Many people mistakenly believe that these grains are a form of barley, probably because many markets label them as “Asian barley” or “Asian pearl barley.” In fact, barley is in an entirely different botanical genus, although the two plants are in the same family. Like barley, Job's tears are dense, rich in minerals, and easy to use in a variety of recipes, so the case of mistaken identity can be forgiven. The plants are also cultivated as ornamentals, incidentally, and Western gardeners may not be aware that the large grains on these grasses are perfectly edible.

As a food, Job's tears can be used like any other grain in soups and gruels, and they can also be ground to make flour. In Asia, the grains are believed to be beneficial for joint pain, and they are sold in a polished white form and in an unhulled brown form. Unhulled tears are more readily available in Japan, where they are called juzudama.

In crafts, these grains are used to make beads, and they may be dyed or carved to enhance their artistic value. It is generally not a good idea to eat those that are designed for crafting, since they can be treated with various substances to make them more durable. Many varietals of the plant actually grow naturally with a small hole, making them suitable for stringing as beads.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon282410 — On Jul 29, 2012

There is a fabricated de-huller/grinder which will break the hard seed coat. (it's just like the traditional two corrugated big stones w/c presses then break the hard seed coat), after which you just winnow to separate the de-hulled coix.

By dac — On Aug 27, 2011

how do I hull the Job's tears?

By anon209687 — On Aug 27, 2011

I see a few people have asked how to hull the Job's tears - but I haven't seen any answers.

I would also like to know as I have grown them successfully and only used as beads but would like to cook with them - how do I hull them?

By anon161628 — On Mar 20, 2011

Pick the Job's Tears when they turn black in late summer. Let them dry naturally in an open box. They will turn different shades of gray.

I plant mine on May 15 in a filled circle. They grow like ornamental grass.

By anon139866 — On Jan 05, 2011

sattodo offered us this wonderful story about teething and Job's Tears (thank you!), but I'm left with a question. when the babies wear the necklace, do they "chew" on it? or do they simply wear it? (absorbing the properties through the skin?) thank you!

By anon105322 — On Aug 19, 2010

How do you hull job's tears?

By anon96047 — On Jul 14, 2010

I have nine small Job's Tear plants growing with tons of beads coming out everywhere. This is my first time so can you tell me when they are ready to be picked. I will be making rosaries out of these and I know nothing about them. Also is there an outer shell we have to peel back to get to the bead or does that die back when it is ready to be picked. Help please.

By anon71559 — On Mar 18, 2010

I just learned that that Job's Tears are a great anti-inflammatory agent. Can you share some recipes on how to prepare them? Mercedes

By DrRobin — On Feb 19, 2010

Hello I use Job's tears in my daily diet and use it in place of wheat flour. My friend came to dinner today and I made my special rice cakes.

I use brown rice that I get free from a local farmer friend of mine and cook as one cup of rice to two cups of water and a pinch of sea salt. I usually just use leftover rice from the day before. I mix together two eggs that I also get from my farmer friend for free. I help teach his children English as I live in China so it is give and take.

I mix 1/2 cup of olive oil and one cup of yogurt with the eggs and then sift a little baking soda into the Job's tears flour I also, yes, get from my farmer friend. Mix together and bake in my little toaster oven for 20 minutes and it is delicious.

If you like to go vegan then you could use soft tofu, which I do on occasion. I am adventurous and have tried many local foods here in the southern Province of Guangxi. There are numerous tubers and green vegetables I have never met before.

I also like to use lotus root and find it very good for the health as well as tasty. Your friend Dr. Robin

By anon53281 — On Nov 19, 2009

I just bought a packet of coix seeds from a company called 'wholesome choice' and on the back it says (contains gluten, namely barley). Are you sure they are gluten free?

By anon51704 — On Nov 08, 2009

This a follow up for post #10. I brought my potted jobs tears indoors in October and put them in front of a west side window. They are growing well and after a month most of the plants have two or three fruits (seeds). I water every three or four days. The leaves are greener and less drying than when I brought the pot in the house.

By anon48070 — On Oct 09, 2009

This is my first year of growing Job's Tears. I planted the seeds in a large pot outdoors in early July. They get plenty of sun (well they did until recently). They seemed to be growing well at first, but it has been three months and cooler weather is here and no so much sun anymore. They haven't gotten any seeds yet. The plants are only about 7" tall and starting to get brown/yellow on some of the bottom leaves. I am wondering if I should bring the pot in the house. Any suggestions?

By thenymph — On Sep 03, 2009

Hi, I have been growing Job's Tears in pots but now wish to transplant them to my garden. Can you tell me what kind of place they would like? The pots have been in shady sunlight but I am wondering if they would benefit from being in more direct sunlight, or would this burn the leaves? Thanks for your help!

By anon43592 — On Aug 30, 2009

Koreans have them as tea. It is quite thick in texture but the warm, nutty, slightly sweet flavor is really soothing. I was sick all day and could not eat for fear of vomiting. Had indigestion and it was not pretty. The tea is the only thing I could stomach. It is great since I am getting more nutrients than drinking plain water.

By routa — On Feb 07, 2009

how do i dye my job's tears?

By sattodo — On Oct 26, 2008

I just wanted to put a little something in here. My great grandmother went to Hawaii and brought these back. She used them for her kids. It helps with teething. They have been passed down to all the females in the family. I have 3 little girls and used them with all three. Every one of them never even knew they had teeth coming in till they almost bit us. Now they still get the runny nose but helps them sleep at night, not cranky from pain, and no fever!! I would suggest this remedy to anyone with kids that are teething. Just thread the beads with a needle onto thread and tie around neck. The sooner you do it the better. When babies they don't even realize it is there so don't mess with it. As they grow they are use to it being on there so when you change the size of it... they don't mind it going back on. Hope this will help that family has all those sleepless nights!!!

By rosary — On Sep 11, 2008

I found your information very interesting about Job's Tears. I am a Rosary and Chaplet maker and have grown Job’s Tears to make a Rosary. It is very exciting to see them grow. I am interested in a recipe for Job’s Tears soup? I would love to try it. Do you by chance have one?

By tenthmuse — On Feb 11, 2008

We enjoy eating Job's Tears as an alternative grain. However, we like to alternate gluten grains with gluten-free grains. Is Job's tears gluten-free?

By YourEG — On Dec 18, 2007

I grow Job's Tears. For years, I thought the seeds suitable for necklaces are different from the food intended for eating. I now realize they are the same. Oh Great Wise, one, tell me, How do you hull the raw Job's Tears? The hull is thick and shiny, and hard. What does the hulling tool look like? Where do you get one? How do they hull it, where this seed is grown commercially?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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