Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Wheatgrass: It's so much easier to grow than they want you to know!

I am by no means a health nut. I eat regular people food. I buy organic when I can, and try and cook most of my food at home; but my family still eats pizza, cheese burgers and candy. In the quest for good health however, I've tried a lot. I've gone the route of cutting out all processed food, all dairy, all wheat, gone vegetarian, vegan... You name it-I've probably either done it, or researched doing it. But in recent months I feel like I've found my balance. My goal is not to cut out all of some certain type of food (I respect those who do!), but rather to add healthy foods into my lifestyle.

Something I've heard a lot about, and even tried a few years back, is wheatgrass. What is it? It's literally grass shoots that grow from wheat berries (fancy name for kernels. But no one knows what you're talking about if you ask for "wheat kernels"). It is said to have astounding health benefits. Not to mention that two ounces of wheatgrass juice contains the vitamins and minerals equivalent to 3 pounds of organic vegetables, and is especially high in magnesium, potassium, and calcium ( source ).

So, how can you get some? You can go to your local health shop and buy an once for about $3, order the grass online with overnight shipping, or you can grow your own. I opted for the third.

Now when I set out to grow my own wheatgrass I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. When I got online to research how to grow it, one of the first websites I came across was one "exposing the truth" about the difficulty of growing wheatgrass. They explained how hard it was and basically prepared you for the fact that you were going to fail unless you ordered their monster starter kit. Oh, and it cost about $300.

I was ready to quit. But thankfully, I kept researching and I eventually found this website that walked me through everything. (Now this lady sells stuff on her site, but doesn't push it, which I like).

In the tutorial below, I'm going to share with you, step by step, how I grew my wheatgrass, as well as give you some pointers that helped me.

What you'll need:
-A tray roughly 21" x 11" (I found this one for $5 at WalMart. I just took out the little cardboard looking cups and set aside. I then cut slits in the bottom for water drainage, and set the tray inside of the lid so that I wouldn't have water all over the place)

-Top soil (Found this for $2 from WalMart. It's recommended that you use non-organic top soil. I mistakenly purchased organic and have not had any problems)

-Paper towels (enough for two layers to cover the top of your tray)

-Organic hard red or white wheat-NOT SOFT (I found organic hard red wheat for $1 per pound at Whole Foods).


-A container to soak the wheat berries in

Measure a cup and a half of wheat berries, rinse them, and then put them in a container covered by about 2 inches of water to soak for 12 hours

Day 1:
Once your berries have soaked for 12 hours, pour a layer of top soil into your tray (about 2" deep) and then rinse and drain your berries and pour them over the soil

Next, spread the seed around. Now, by this point you may be thinking, why only a cup and a half? Why not load it down to get the highest yield? At least that's what I was thinking. Well, as it turns out, the biggest enemy for wheatgrass is mold. There are different types of mold (scroll down towards the bottom and this guy gives a pretty good description).
Basically, the mold is caused when there isn't enough circulation in the grass. To ensure circulation you can use a fan and point it toward your wheatgrass, but you chance drying it out. The easiest and best recommendation I found was to plant a little less and you don't have to worry about it.

*If you do however, notice a little white, cotton ball-ish like mold, don't freak out. This is an airborne mold that can easily be washed off. If you don't feel comfortable with that, just cut above it.

Next, cover the tray with two layers of paper towels and pour about two cups of water over the towels (this keeps the moisture where it needs to be, over the seeds).

Next, water the towels once in the morning and once in the evening (the idea is to keep them moist). You'll know that it's time to remove the paper towels when the grass shoots push the towels up about an inch.

Keep your tray in an area where it can receive indirect sunlight (direct sunlight is too harsh). I keep mine on a counter about 20 feet from a window and just leave the shades open during the day.

This was my grass by the afternoon of day 4:

Here it is about 6 hours later (11pm):

You can literally almost watch this stuff grow!

Day 6 (noon):

Day 7 (11 am):

Day 8 Harvest day! (10:45 pm):

(That's the root system)

At the time of harvest, your wheatgrass will be between 7 and 10 inches tall (you can cut it all at the same time, making sure to cut as close to the roots as possible, as this is where he highest concentration of nutrition is said the be). The wheatgrass will store in the refrigerator, wrapped in paper towel, in an airtight zip lock, for 7 days. (Make sure not to wash your wheatgrass until right before you juice it).

Important fact: Once juiced (make sure your juicer is able to juice wheatgrass), it needs to be consumed within 30 minutes or it will go rancid.

I personally don't care for the taste. I've tried mixing it with other juices-some of which turned out ok-but I'd rather get it over with quickly. So I take mine like shot, down the hatch! And then chase it with apple juice.

Most people start off with an ounce and gradually build up to 2 ounces. It is a detoxifier, so it may leave you nauseated for a little while in the begining. They say it helps to drink it on an empty stomach, but ummm, no thanks. I'm not that hard core yet.

After you've harvested your wheatgrass, toss the old stuff and start back at the beginning. You don't want to keep growing and harvesting from the same grass because after the first harvest, its nutritional quality is significantly reduced.

I am at the beginning of learning about wheatgrass. There's a lot more out there. You can compost your soil and add different things to it to yield higher nutrition in your wheatgrass, but I had to start simply. Don't buy into all of the hype of starter kits and special soil. You can put together your own "kit" and start growing your own wheatgrass for a grand total of $10.