Saturday, March 31, 2012

Experimental Crop: Job's Tears

With my history of corn and soy allergies, and our desire to raise our own chickens, my husband and I have been toying with the idea of growing our own non-corn, non-soy (and non-GMO) custom chicken feed.

We can grow some sort of beans for part of the protein need, but have been looking here and there and reading a bit on what to fill that other side of the equation with to get a higher-protein feed, without using corn and using something a little easier to harvest than wheat. (we don't have modern harvesting equipment at this time).  (The sunflowers were gorgeous that we grew a few years ago for added protein; however the flocks of yellow finches thought so too and took care of the entire crop in a matter of days!)

In our research, we came across an old plant called Job's Tears (species Coix lacryma-jobi).
Here are a few interesting tidbits I learned about it and found noteworthy:
  • ancient relative of corn
  • Gluten-free
  • High protein-even higher than Quinoa, which is often touted for high protein content
  • An Anti-Cancer food...the bran contains compounds that inhibit human cancer cells
  • Used medicinally in the Far East for many ailments, and also a food in the Far East, used much like barley
  • Only the dark-colored ones are good for food--lighter ones are bitter and will ruin the whole pot if cooked with the darker ones

Randy's grandmother had given me some old seed  years ago, possibly even before we got married, but I am not sure where I put it(or even if it would grow at this stage in the game!).

So we began looking online for a source of seed and kept coming up dry.  Of the few seed companies we found that carry it, all are sold out already, and jewelry sources often have the seeds reamed out already, ready for threading.

And then we came across crafter Jenny Hoople  (dh found her just googling Job's Tears, and I found her Etsy listing, AuthenticSeeds<<---take a look at her cool jewelry!).  She grows Job's Tears herself for beading and has made the seeds available for others to grow. (Thanks, Jenny, for making these available!)

I have to say that when I received my seeds in the mail, the packaging and presentation of the seeds was a ray of sunshine to my day. Might not matter to folks just wanting seed to grow, but I thought it was a nice touch. :)

Cute bunny drawn on the envelope.

A gift, unwrapped...

 And my seeds, complete with an informative card.
 Thanks again, Jenny! :)

We plan to grow these this year and see how well they do in our climate/soil and how much care they require, and if we get enough to play with at the end of the season we will see how well they might work to 1)incorporate into chicken feed (possibly using a corn grinder...), 2)cook and eat ourselves and see how we like them (probably in soup?), 3)make some cool jewelry w/the kids, and of course 4)save some seed for next year!

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