The Truth on Wheatgrass Seed from a Commercial Grower
As a commercial grower I have been faced with many problems to overcome. The first thing I noticed, most all Wheat Grass growers were first, sprout growers, wheatgrass was a secondary crop. Compared to wheatgrass, there's more money in sprouts. With sprouts, you don't need soil or the sun, and they grow wheatgrass in the same building as their sprouts. That is, in an air conditioned and heated building, with artificial lights. Yet, they call their wheatgrass Liquid Sunshine. I didn't quite understand that. A more appropriate name would be, Liquid Lightbulb. I also found that most wheatgrass was grown in a soil that left a lot to be desired. Usually it would be the cheapest they could find. Again they were sprout growers, not having a lot of experience with the importance of nutritional soil for plants. Sprouters believe that all the nutrient is in the seed. For the first 4-5 days young plants can grow in anything because they are getting their nutrients from the seed. They can grow in anything, even shredded paper. After 4-5 days the plants have developed roots which begin seeking the soil for nutrients to continue to grow into healthy plants. Wheatgrass grown in soil without needed minerals, grow 2-5 days without the needed additional nutrients. Some sprouters would find a magic bullet they could add to their soil, usually because they heard of someone else using it. It appeared that the whole wheatgrass business was monkey see, monkey do. Some are still using cafeteria trays, as Ann Wigmore did in the 50's, (that was all that was available then). Today they have growing containers designed for maximum root growth for healty plants. In my early years as a commerical certified organic grower of medical herbs, I discovered the importance of a high quality soil, seed and growing environment for healthy plants, and not for my cost or convenience.
When I don't meet my delivery schedule, or the trays have a small yield, or the grass has a bitter taste, I hear about it, face to face with my boss, ( my customer). They even wanted the wheatgrass to have a flat, level top because it would be displayed on the counter tops. Wheatgrass with a flat, level top was more attractive to the customer than a tray of wheatgrass with a ragged, uneven top.
Well after years, and growing over 160,000 trays of wheatgrass, I now keep my customers happy. Now when they see me coming, all they say is "here comes the Wheatgrassman."
I discovered three things important to produce high quality wheatgrass on a consistent basis. SEED-SOIL-SUN!
For years I purchased wheatgrass seed by the ton and each new delivery I would change my planting schedule because the new seed was growing at a different rate from the last shipment. It would sometimes taste different, although it was puchased from the same company in the same labled bag. And a lot of times, a low yield would go along with a bitter taste. I started looking at growing wheatgrass the same as many specialty crops are. In all plants there are many different varieties and species. Tomatoes are a good example. Some varieties of tomatoes are best for making ketchup, some are better for salsa. Grapes are a better example. Some are better for making wine while others are better as a table grape. Another problem some customers complained about was when the wheatgrass was at its peak, the tops of grass was more ragged, it wan't flat and smooth. They liked the flat and smooth top in order to show it off on top of their counters. It would always bring a positive response from customers which increased sales. The ragged tops would also produce less yield. I traced the ragged top and less yield to the fact the company that was bagging the wheat seed, was blending different species of a certian variety, its called custom blending, which all wheat compaies do.
So where do I start my quest for the perfect wheatgrass seed? My first thought was since wheatgrass is to be used a a medical supplement, I would approach my thinking, as treating wheatgrass as a medical herb. With my experience in researching herbs, I would always look at the history of the plant to see how it was used in the past. The juice of wheatgrass doesn't go back that far, wheat seed does. It has been used for breadmaking for thousands of years which has supplied entire civilizations with food. This bread was made with hard red wheat, and it's still preferred as the wheat for bread today. Soft, white wheat is used more in the pastry business. So since our ancestors lived on bread and not donuts, I think hard red wheat seed would be my best. So then I had to choose between hard red winter wheat and hard red spring wheat. My decision on this went back that many herbs potency increased the longer it was in the soil. Ginseng and Echinacea are two that most people have heard of. They increase in potency and value each year they are in the soil. An example would be to check the cost of 20-30 year Ginsing. So since hard red winter wheat is planted in Sept or Oct and harvested in May or June, whereas, hard red spring wheat is planted in April or May and is havested in Aug or Sept., Hard red winter wheat is in the soil, twice as long. So my thinking is since its in the soil longer, especially growing during the harsh winter months it must be a tougher seed. So as a medial supplemnt, I prefer a tougher plant variety, same species for its flat tops and maximum yield and highest protein content.
These companies that blend the wheat are called mills. They are the ones that buy the wheat from the farmer. The highest quality wheat is determined by the protein content of the wheat at havest time. The higher the protein, the higher the price and it is always sold first because of it high demand by the baking industry. The protein will vary from farm to farm because soil, seed used and the amount of rain the crop gets. Protein in wheat is broken up into different components; about half of this protein is in the form of gluten, which is needed in the baking industry. Gluten is what holds the batter together and helps yeast make the dough rise. Different baking companieies require different gluten content. In this example I'll use 12% gluten is what this certain baking company needs. The mills buy some wheat with 16% protein, so they will find 8% protein to blend down to obtain the needed 12% protein. Of course, the 8% protein is cheaper than the 16% protein. These two will be the same variety, hard red winter, but be different species. As many as 3 or 4 different species could be blended into one bag. Each could have a differnt growth rate which would efffect flats tops and yield. Well in the field a few days difference between the differnt species would not be noticed in the grain production or harvest time. But growing wheatgrass, a few days difference, would mean some blades of grass could be 2-3 inches taller than the others.
From a scientists view, there are 100's of different compotents of proteins in wheat. The gluten protein is the most abundant compotent of protein which has the most influence on the flour quality. The other parts of the proteins are called metabolic protein, which are of a mystery to scientist other than they are essential for growth of the seed. It appears that this part of the protein could be the colostrum for the seed. So I finally decided what I need was hard red winter wheat for its toughness, a single species so all the blades of the grass would be the same height, for maximum height yield and flat tops. And most of all, high in protein, for its high metabolic count for a massive root system, that would allow it to pull up more minerals from my highly mineralized Genesis Wheatgrass Soil.
Well after all this, I thought the hard part was over with, but I was sure wrong. It seems that most mills use the higher protein wheat for blending since its the hardest to find, and it's the first to be sold. So as time goes on, the wheat that is left over for us measley little wheatgrass grower, is wheat that doesn't meet normal protein standards. This wheat is called utility wheat and is usually sold in the feed industry. So I decided to bypass the mills and go straight to the farmer, but that also brought problems. Most of the farmers sell directly to the mills that send their 18 wheeler trucks and pick up the wheat in bulk and unbagged. Most of the farmers don't have bagging equipment.
Fianlly last year, I found a farmer that was certified organic, and after growing many test trays,we worked out an agreement for him to save enough wheat seed for my wheatgrass operation.
All of our wheatgrass kits and bulk wheat we sell is this same high quality wheatgrass seed, from the farm to you.
When I formulated the first highly mineralized soil for wheatgrass, we were so proud of the results, we gave it a name, Genesis Wheatgrass Soil. Now we call this seed Genesis Wheatgrass Seed. After all, it is the first.
Thanks for your time,
Note from The Wheatgrassman:
Please support your local Mom and Pop organic farmer. They are the ones that started this whole movement for higher quality food and herbs. They are the ones that made it possible for the health food stores to grow to the level they are today. The Mom and Pop farmers are the pioneers that did without and sacrificed until the organic movement made it into the mainstream America. They are the ones that volunteered their time to educate the public about organics. Then when oganics became popular enough to become profitable, that is when the big conglomerates stepped in. They were not out there when is was unprofitable. The small producer cannot compete against the big boys. It seems the big health food chain stores have forgotten the old saying, "Dance with the ones that brought you". The Organic Movement is being taken over by the big conglomerates and others representing themselves as growers, (who have a city address). Some even claim they are organic. If they were true organic farmers, why don't they have an organic certificate? It's not that hard. Just follow some rules. My certificate does not allow me to have non- organic products around my organic products because of contamination. Makes sense, doesn't it? But they don't have to follow the rules. In the early 90's there were over a dozen growers delivering organic products into the Dallas/FT Worth market of north Texas area. Today there are only a few. There are many organic growers going to the internet to supplement their farms with value added products produced on their farms. And to you that support us, you are the ones that keep us going here at Dogwood Gardens Organic Farm. And to the ones that do pay attention, Our address is P O Box 254 4895 FM 279, (the FM stand for Farm to Market Road)Ben wheeler TX 75754.
Gloria Jean (greenhouse manager)
Gerald (The Wheatgrassman, I do only what Carolyn and Gloria Jean tell me to do)
Thanks from all of us.
We include basic growing instructions with ever product we sell. For more detailed growing instructions, order The Wheatgrass Growing Manual in PDF format on CD. Loaded with color photographs illustrating ever step of the way from soaking the seed to harvesting your wheatgrass.