Before corn (Zea mays) became popular in Southern Asia, Job's tears was rather widely cultivated as a cereal in India. It is a potentially very useful grain having a higher protein to carbohydrate ratio than any other cereal.
The seed has a very tough shell however making it rather difficult to extract the grain.
Whilst usually grown as an annual, the plant is perennial in essentially frost-free areas.
The seeds are used as decorative beads. The stems are used to make matting.
Pre-soak for 2 hours in warm water and sow February/March in a greenhouse. The seed usually germinates in 3 - 4 weeks at 25°c. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots. Grow them on in cool conditions and plant out in late spring after the last expected frosts. Seed can also be sown in situ in May though it would be unlikely to ripen its seed in an average British summer. In a suitable climate, it takes about 4 - 5 months from seed to produce new seed.
Succeeds in ordinary garden soil. Best grown in an open sunny border. Prefers a little shelter from the wind.
Seed - cooked. A pleasant mild flavour, it can be used in soups and broths. It can be ground into a flour and used to make bread or used in any of the ways that rice is used. The pounded flour is sometimes mixed with water like barley for barley water. The pounded kernel is also made into a sweet dish by frying and coating with sugar. It is also husked and eaten out of hand like a peanut. The seed contains about 52% starch, 18% protein, 7% fat. It is higher in protein and fat than rice but low in minerals. This is a potentially very useful grain, it has a higher protein to carbohydrate ratio than any other cereal, though the hard seedcoat makes extraction of the flour rather difficult.
A tea can be made from the parched seeds whilst beers and wines are made from the fermented grain.