Friday, June 14, 2013

How to Grow Your Own Wheatgrass for Juicing

For a real shot of energy and wholesome phytochemicals, try a shot of fresh wheatgrass juice, as you learned in the articles Wheatgrass – What's so Super about This Superfood? and Consumption of Wheatgrass 101).  But wheatgrass juice availability and cost are often deal breakers for those who want to drink it regularly.  The solution? Grow your own wheatgrass from seed!  It’s a dirt-cheap way to create an endless supply of the freshest wheatgrass for juicing, and you can even grow it indoors. 

To get you on course to growing a healthy and continuous supply of wheatgrass for juicing, we got the dirt on the subject from raw food aficionado Gwen Adams of Bothell, Washington.  Gwen has been growing her own indoor wheatgrass crops for 10 years. As well, she was trained, and has been an instructor/lecturer, at the Creative Health Institute of Michigan, has taught raw food diet workshops, is certified as an Advanced Practitioner of Health through Nutrition, Exercise, and Education, and is a certified yoga instructor.  Here, Gwen shares with us some of her secrets to growing a bountiful crop of wheatgrass in your own home.


Q: Gwen, how much space do I need to grow wheatgrass?


This depends on how much wheatgrass you plan to be juicing.  I’ve had a sufficient supply of wheatgrass growing to provide a regular, daily supply of wheatgrass juice for two in the space of a large garden window (mine is about four feet wide).

To keep a regular supply, it’s good to have your wheatgrass growing in rotation, so that one or two batches are growing while another one is ready to juice.  You can get special pallets, called sprouters, about the size of a cafeteria tray to grow each batch – or just use actual cafeteria trays.

One advantage of buying a sprouter instead of using cafeteria trays is that it’s easier to accidentally overwater when using cafeteria trays, which can lead to mold.  Each cafeteria or sprouter tray will yield about 7 to 10 one-ounce shots of wheatgrass juice – a few days' supply – depending on the quality of the soil.

Shelves for growing wheatgrass
Gwen's first shelves for growing wheatgrass


Q: Why “in rotation”? Can I not just keep reusing a wheatgrass batch after it grows?


No.  The best wheatgrass is young wheatgrass.  Expect to clip the grass for juicing one time – two times at best – before it gets too mature, bitter, and less nutritious.  So, yes, you need to keep a rotation of trays going in various stages of growth to maintain a regular supply of wheatgrass for juicing. 


Q: Is it best to grow wheatgrass indoors or outdoors?


You can grow it either way. But there are so many variables when growing it outdoors, such as humidity, temperature, insects, and wind, that can make it difficult to have success, especially on your first attempts. Just for the sake of control, I strongly recommend growing it indoors. Just make sure it gets plenty of daylight. 


Q: What if I live in a small apartment with no direct sunlight windows?


If you haven't got a good window spot for light, you can still grow your own wheatgrass indoors by using grow lights.  I've even had success without full-spectrum bulbs, just using florescent tube lighting – a more affordable option.


Q: What kind of wheatgrass seed do I need to buy?


I've had the most success growing from the seeds of red winter wheat, also known as hard wheat. 


Q:  Where do I buy wheatgrass seeds for juicing?


I recommend  looking in the bulk  foods section of your local health foods market.  You can sometimes find it at a large department store, but my experience is that the quality of wheatgrass seeds varies significantly from place to place. Buying it from a major discounter, I have found that the crop would more often turn moldy. In short: you get what you pay for.

I’ve also been able to find good quality wheatgrass seeds in a farmer’s feed store. If you are fortunate enough to have one of those near you, try that.


Q: What are the basic supplies needed to grow wheatgrass?


Here’s a full list, in quantities to make a full rotation of wheatgrass for two.
  • 6 Wide Mouth Jars for germinating the seeds
  • 6 Screens (cut from nylon window screen) to cover your jars
  • 6 Screw Tops for the jar lids (or strong rubber bands to hold the screen on)
  • 12 Cafeteria Trays (or other growing trays)
  • Winter (hard) wheatberries
  • Good rich, organic top soil (composted soil is best). It should be dark in color. Enriching it with compost is helpful, if you have access to it.
  • A container in which to keep your dirt handy and easily accessible, since you’ll be repeating this process regularly.
  • A shelf unit on which to grow the grass (placed near a nice, bright window).


Q: What is the step-by-step wheatgrass growing process?


I’ll put it in order for you:
  1. Soak approx. ½ to 1 cup of wheat berries (the seeds). Dispose of the wheat berries that float to the top. Place screen on top of jar and then leave it for at least eight hours (basically overnight).
  2. After adequate soak time, pour the water out. Rinse again and turn the jar upside down to drain in drainer for several hours (or overnight).
  3. Let your seeds sprout (grow a tail) for one day in a dark place (I use the inside of my stove), or until you see little white grass starting to sprout.
  4. Put dirt in your growing tray, level with tray’s rim (about one inch thick of dirt).
  5. Place the sprouted seed on top, spreading to a nice, thin layer.
  6. Water thoroughly, but don’t over-soak.
  7. Cover your tray with evenly-dampened paper towels, or just place a second tray upside down on top of it to create darkness.
  8. Leave it alone for a couple of days. It will begin to grow. When the growing wheatgrass raises the tray, it’s time to take the lid off and expose it to light.
  9. Begin watering your grass daily. To avoid overwatering, user spray bottle to spritz it. Or, in a hot area, use a watering can with a sprinkle spout. If you overwater it, saturating it, you’ll get mold, and need to drop the whole batch. A very tiny bit of mold is okay, but try to avoid any. To control it, keep your trays where there’s good air circulation.
The grass will be white at first, but will turn green once exposed to sunlight.


Q: How do I know when it’s ready?


In about seven days, your grass should be tall enough to juice (7 to 10 inches tall – even taller if you’re growing it outdoors). The actual grow time can vary according to time of year and amount of light.

Gwen Adams with a healthy wheatgrass crop rotation
Gwen Adams with a healthy wheatgrass crop rotation


Q: How do I process my harvest?


Easy.  With a pair of sharp scissors, cut your grass down no further than the white portion.

For best juicing, get a wheatgrass juicer.  A juicer that is designed to juice greens can work, juicer designed for wheatgrass will give you the best yield. 

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If you have questions for Gwen, or tips of your own to share, please use the comments section below.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

1 comment:

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