The health world moves in fads. Some fade, some are enduring.
Baby wheat looks like it’s here to stay. You probably know it as wheatgrass. It’s generally sold by the shot (it’s not the best tasting thing) and is said to do excellent things for your immune system.
That’s because the new shoot of wheat is filled with goodies such as chlorophyll, amino acids, minerals, vitamins and enzymes. But chlorophyll makes up about 70 per cent of the grass – hence the green colour.
The western consumption of wheatgrass started in the 1930s as a result of experiments conducted by American nutritionist Charles Schnabel. He used fresh cut grass to nurse dying hens back to health. The hens recovered and produced eggs at a higher rate than the healthy hens.
I recently interviewed Jan Struthers of Wheatgrass Noosa for my Ask a Farmer Feature in the Sunday Mail. She started juicing wheat when she became sick with streptococcus and lupus. At the time wheatgrass was hard to source so she used her training in horticulture and landscape design to grow it and now supplies wheatgrass for both medicinal purposes and also to brides looking for a sleek, modern table centrepiece.
Little do they realise it’s also a Persian tradition to have a vase of wheatgrass on the wedding table as it’s an ancient symbol for fertility.
The best way to consume wheatgrass and reap the benefits is to juice it using a juicer which ‘presses’ the ingredients. Jan sells trays of wheatgrass for $13 each.
This is how she grows it.
Paddock to Plate
Seed: I buy good quality seed in bulk. I soak the seed overnight in water which helps it to germinate.
Plant: I sow the seed in a bed of certified organic soil. I plant into trays which make the grass more manageable.
Growth: Wheatgrass is a winter crop but I grow it all year round. It takes longer to grow in winter, up to three weeks to reach optimum height. It also tastes more bitter in winter because it grows slower. In summer it’s ready after eight days and is really sweet. Some people think it tastes like aniseed.
Harvest: I harvest the wheatgrass when it’s between 12cm and 15cm tall. After that it starts to outgrow the soil, go limp and yellow off.
Selling: I sell by the tray but I also cut it and bag it up and send it overnight which has worked really well. I also sell in frozen portions.
Eating: You can’t eat wheatgrass because if you can imagine, animals eat it but they need four digestive compartments to digest it. Juicing is the best way to consume it but you need a special juicer with an auger component. Juicing preserves the nutrients and the live enzymes and maximizes its potency.
Gluten: Wheatgrass is gluten-free. The gluten stays within the grain.
Second shoot: Often you’ll get a second growth come up which is absolutely fine to use. After that I discard the wheatgrass either in the compost bin or give it to the chooks.