Have you ever been at a smoothie bar, scratching your head and wondering what wheatgrass was? Maybe you read an article or saw something on TV promoting how great wheatgrass was for you, but you couldn’t exactly figure out why you would want to eat grass.
Just as it sounds, wheatgrass is the new sprouts of a common wheat plant. It looks a lot like everyday lawn grass, but it’s thinner, hollow, and can be juiced. For years, nutritionists have touted wheatgrass as a powerful super food packed with amino acids, fiber, beta-carotene, chlorophyll, and vitamins.
The health benefits of wheatgrass are wide ranging. One study showed that daily wheatgrass intake reduced the symptoms of ulcerative colitis. Another study showed that wheatgrass has a chelation effect, or the ability to detoxify the body. Proponents of wheatgrass also claim that it can rebuild healthy red blood cells and improve blood-glucose levels in diabetic patients.
And though related to the common wheat plant, it’s important to know that wheatgrass does not contain wheat gluten.
So why should you be growing wheatgrass? Not only is it a healthy plant that’s great for you, it’s incredibly easy to grow and requires about as much effort as growing the grass on your lawn!
The easiest (and cheapest) way to get started growing your own wheatgrass is by buying wheatgrass already grown at your grocery store or garden center. You can also grow wheatgrass from seeds, which requires a little more effort – more on that later.
If you decide to go with the store-grown route, wait until the wheatgrass shoots are 7 to 8 inches tall and then prune the shoots just above the soil. Keep the soil moist by watering once a day with a spray bottle and keep the plant in direct or indirect light. Wheatgrass grows very quickly, and it should be ready for harvest again within 7 to 14 days.
Growing Wheatgrass from Seed
Growing wheatgrass from seed is easy to do but requires a little more work than simply buying it already grown for you. However, this method allows you to control every variable to ensure you’re getting the best wheatgrass possible.
- Wheatgrass seed (wheat berries)
- Growing trays with lids
- Organic soil
- Good natural lighting or a grow light
Buy some wheatgrass seed and soak the seeds in water for 8 to 12 hours. After this, drain the water and wrap your seeds loosely in a paper towel. While you can skip all of this and put your seeds right into the soil, this step aids in germination.
While waiting for germination, you can prepare your growing tray. Poke a few small holes in the bottom of the growing tray and in the lid to help improve water drainage and airflow. Next, prepare your soil mixture. Several mixes of soil will work, but a combination of potting soil, peat moss, compost, and a little vermiculite seems to work well.
Once a small white tail has sprouted from the seeds (if you decided to wait for germination), plant the seed on top of your soil. Place near a window that gets at least 6 hours of natural light a day or under a grow light. If using a grow light, leave it on for 12 to 14 hours a day.
During the first 2 to 3 days of growth, water once in the morning with a spray bottle until the soil is very moist, then lightly mist your seed in the evening. Like grass seed, wheatgrass thrives in moist soil. Keep the lid on during this time.
After the third day, you can remove the lid. By now, plenty of wheatgrass shoots should be popping up and growing tall. You can also use a mild liquid fertilizer at this time. Wheatgrass is susceptible to mold, especially if air isn’t circulating. You can increase your air circulation with a fan or air conditioning.
After 7 to 12 days, the wheatgrass should be tall enough for harvest – usually 7 to 8 inches tall. Of course you can let it grow taller, but eventually, the grass will begin to split and attempt to grow buds. When you finally harvest your wheatgrass, cut your wheatgrass just above the soil.
For optimal nutrition, juice right away. If you have leftovers, wheatgrass can be stored in a container in your refrigerator for about a week. If you notice the grass turning yellow, you may have waited too long.
Several companies also sell wheatgrass kits. A wheatgrass kit contains everything you need to get started and reduces the mystery about how to grow wheatgrass. Most wheatgrass kits include seeds, a growing tray, soil, and perhaps a fertilizer (or azomite). Many kits are certified USDA Organic to guarantee that you are getting the healthiest wheatgrass possible.
Once you have your kit, the process is basically the same as outlined previously for growing wheatgrass from seed. If the wheatgrass kit comes with instructions, be sure to use those as well.
So you’ve got a tall, healthy of wheatgrass shoots – now what? Most people juice wheatgrass using either a small hand-powered juicer or an electric juicer made specifically for wheatgrass. Normal juicers destroy wheatgrass with their high speeds, so don’t waste your resources on that. For best taste, drink the juice within 30 minutes. Most users drink about 2 ounces once or twice a day, though more can be taken if you can tolerate it. However, start with 2 ounces once a day to ensure you don’t have any negative reactions.
If you’re not in the mood to juice, you could simply chew on the grass, cut it up and put it on a salad, or blend it in with a smoothie. Your pets may also enjoy nibbling on the grass, as cats and dogs are both attracted to wheatgrass.