Tapping into wheatgrass
You already know that drinking wheatgrass juice is healthy, but did you know that wheatgrass juice and juice in general is becoming very popular? The Next Big Thing? One of the top 10 new business trends for the new century as reported by Entrepreneur Magazine? Soon, juice joints will be popping up everywhere like Starbucks coffee shops. “We grow our own wheatgrass,” is the claim to fame of Jugo Juice, a chain of juice bars in Canada. The brains behind Jugo Juice, two former Starbucks baristas, spotted the trend and plan to market this Next Big Thing to the same gourmet coffee-swilling crowd that bought the last Big Thing. “Will it be mocha latte grande today or rhubarb wheatgrass?”
Making a big thing about juice won’t be cheap though. Did you expect it to be? A wheatgrass concoction can cost $5.00 and more. But don’t despair if you are one of those unfortunates on a budget or where a juice joint hasn’t popped yet. You can grow and juice wheatgrass at home. It’s easy and inexpensive.
What you will need to get started:
Wheat. Wheat is that cereal grain that we do so much with already: flour, bread, pasta, sprouts, and cake. You can grow grass with it too. Wheatgrass grows from whole wheat “berries.” Organic, hard red winter wheat berries that haven’t been treated with chemicals or oxygen absorbers are the best wheat berries to use for growing wheatgrass. The berry is really a seed, alive but dormant, so it needs oxygen in storage. 4,000-year-old wheat from Egyptian tombs has been known to grow so it probably doesn’t need very much oxygen. Health food stores and natural food co-ops where you can buy in bulk are the best bet for finding the wheat berries. Clerks might not know if the wheat has been treated. Buy it and try it anyway: just get started.
Trays. Wheatgrass will grow in only an inch of soil so you don’t need a large garden area. Thick rigid plastic trays like cafeteria trays or photographic processing trays are good. Cafeteria trays are usually about 10” X 14” and this is a convenient size to work with. Plant nursery seedling trays are another option. Just about anything is worth a try: metal snack trays, pyrex baking dishes, anything that will hold an inch or two of soil. Cardboard is not recommended though. It falls apart after only one use and can be a watering mess. Restaurant suppliers and second hand stores are good sources for trays.
Soil. A good soil mixture for the trays is 50% organic compost or potting soil and 50% peat moss. Mix it thoroughly, breaking up clumps and add a couple of teaspoons of rock dust, dolomite or greensand per tray (optional). If you are a gardener you probably already have a favorite seed starter mix and this will work too. It is best not to use outdoor garden soil because of the bugs and stray weed seeds.
Water. Untreated well water is the best water to use but difficult to obtain for most of us. If your water is heavily chlorinated (can you smell it?) use filtered water or let it set in an open container 24 hours to let the chlorine gas off. A mister bottle and a watering can with a sprinkler head will be handy.
Grow the Grass
1) Soak the wheat berries for 12 hours or overnight. Use one cup of wheat berries per (cafeteria) tray and enough water to cover the berries by about 1-2 inches. Cover or put in a dark place. In hot weather the berries can start to ferment in this amount of time. They will be bubbly, foamy and maybe even smell. If this happens, you can throw them out and start over or plant them anyway. They might grow; wheat seems forgiving of mistakes like these.
2) Plant the wheat berries. Prepare the trays by spreading the soil mixture about 1-2 inches deep or however much the tray will hold. In shallow trays like cafeteria trays, make a trough around the edge and mound the soil slightly in the center. This keeps the water in the trays and prevents overflow accidents. Water the soil well with the mister and spread the soaked wheat berries in a single layer. They can touch but should not be on top of each other. Cover with a thin layer of soil as thin as you can make it. Cover the tray with another tray or several layers of dampened newspaper and plastic over all. Place in a dark cool place.
3) The wheat berries germinate and sprout. For the first 3-5 days uncover the trays daily for fresh air. Check for mold and wipe it off if you find it. Check for moisture and water with the mister if it seems dry. Cover and put the tray back in the cool dark place. You should be seeing roots and sprouts in this timeframe. After 5 days, if there are no sprouts and/or lots of mold, you may have bad seeds or soaked them too long or overwatered or had too much heat for germination.
4) When the sprouts are 1 inch tall, uncover and mist with a dilute liquid seaweed supplement. This supplement step is optional but worth it if you have the seaweed available. Continue to keep the trays uncovered, in indirect sunlight until the blades of grass have grown to 8-10” tall. This may take another week. They need water everyday. Use the sprinkler can for the main watering and mist later if they look wilty. Use the seaweed only in the first days, otherwise the juice may taste like seaweed. Turn the trays if the grass begins to lean in one direction.
Juice the Grass
You will need a serrated knife or pair of scissors, several bowls, shotglasses, measuring cups and a juicer.
Juicers are manual hand-cranked or electric. Electric juicers should be low rpm (not over 50 rpm) because high speed oxidizes the grass and the grass fibers bind. Don’t even try to use a blender. Electric juicers are the only expensive part of this whole process. An electric juicer will pay for itself though if you consider all those $5.00 juice drinks at the juice bar. Hand-cranked models are cheaper but you have to do some work to get your juice.
1) Harvest the wheatgrass with scissors or a knife. Hold a bunch of wheatgrass in one hand and cut as close to the soil as possible with the other hand. Have a bowl handy. The grass is so pretty, green and vibrant. You may not want to cut it but do it anyway.
2) Get the juicer out. You will need a bowl to catch the expelled pulp and shotglasses or measuring cups to hold the juice. Feed the grass into the hopper and either crank or let electricity do the work. Soon a dark green liquid will come out with the pulp coming out separately. The pulp can be run through the juicer again. A light green foam comes out as well making a head on the juice.
3) Clean the juicer right away. It is difficult to clean if left too long.
4) After harvest you have a tray full of grass stubble. There are plenty of things to do with it. Continue to water it and get a second growth to juice again. It is a good addition to compost bins and worm bins. Break the mat of roots and soil into pieces before adding to the bin. You can also feed it to chickens. They love pecking out the berry and getting some fresh greens at the same time. Take the mat of roots, soil and grass stubble out in one piece for the chickens.
Use the Juice
The juice should be used within 30 minutes of harvest and juicing. It starts breaking down and goes bad within 12 hours.
Drink it for a morning energizer, for detoxifying and cleansing. Instead of a vitamin pill from a factory or processing plant drink 1-2 ounces of wheatgrass juice for your vitamins, minerals, enzymes, protein and chlorophyll. You probably won’t be drinking it for the taste. Some people have a hard time getting it down the hatch. One trick is to hold your breath and put a piece of parsley in your mouth. Just think how healthy it is too. That should help. The taste is very grassy (surprise) but has a sweet finish.
Drink it as part of a fast. Wheatgrass juice is an excellent super nutritional addition to a fasting program. Always drink plenty of water while fasting.
Wheatgrass juice can be used in enemas and rectal implants for rapid cleansing. Juice can be used in douches as well.
The expelled pulp and juice can be used in first aid poultices applied to sunburned skin, rashes, boils and cuts.
Wheatgrass juice has cosmetic uses. Use it as a hair conditioner and scalp treatment. Gargle with it for fresh breath and gum health.
Give yourself a facial with wheatgrass juice. First cleanse and steam the skin to open pores. Then apply undiluted fresh juice to the skin with cottonballs. Relax for 5 minutes and rinse.
Take a bath in wheatgrass juice. Usually wheatgrass juice is used undiluted or straight, but for this application diluted is the way to go. Pour a few ounces into the bathwater and make a teabag of pulp to hang.
Throw a wheatgrass party. It is best to invite a mix of people: people who know about wheatgrass but have never tried it and old hands. Introducing people to wheatgrass juice is great entertainment.
Green beer. Instead of using food coloring to make green beer for St. Patrick’s Day, use wheatgrass juice. It doesn’t take much to turn beer a beautiful green color. It’s much healthier than food coloring.
Finally, get in on the new business trend and start your own wheatgrass juice business.