Many plants are called "wheat grass," but the most popular is the young version of wheat, or Triticum aestivum. Wheat grass is the same thing as common wheat, but it is harvested at a young age--between one and two weeks old. Wheat grass has many health benefits, but because it cannot be digested easily by humans, it must be liquefied to be consumed. It is often grown indoors.
Wheat grass was first marketed as a powder in the 1940s, after a chemist named Schnabel used grass to increase the egg production of hens. A woman named Ann Wigmore was also instrumental in promoting the health benefits of wheat grass. Convinced that the consumption of grass could cure diseases, Wigmore wrote a series of books that found a large readership, according to the National Council Against Health Fraud. Her work greatly increased the popularity of wheat grass.
Wheat grass seeds have a hard seed coat and must be soaked in water until the sprout emerges. At that point, they are transferred to a shallow tray that has been filled with a mixture of potting soil and peat moss. The seeds are scattered on top of the soil. The tray is placed in a cool, dark location for two days, then placed in a sunny spot. Regular watering is needed to keep the soil consistently moist, but not waterlogged.
The grass is harvested around the eighth day of growth, according to the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, directly before the second set of leaves uncurls. The sprouts can be cut with a knife or scissors or pulled up. Usually they are cut because the grass can be harvested again a week later. The grass is then washed, chopped and put through a juicer. It is also dried and ground into powder.
Wheat grass is nutritious, but not any more so than a number of common vegetables, according to the National Council Against Health Fraud. One 7 oz. serving of wheat grass contains less vitamin B12 than a glass of milk. The same serving contains much less beta carotene than one raw carrot, and much less calcium than 1/4 cup of cooked broccoli. Wheat grass also contains protein, magnesium, phosphorous and iron. One of the benefits of drinking wheat grass is that you get all of these nutrients in the same single serving.
Health Benefits and Claims
Many claims exist that wheat grass can do everything from rid the body of toxins to cure cancer, but none of these claims have been substantiated with scientific testing, according to the National Council Against Health Fraud. Tests have shown, however, that wheat grass is high in antioxidants and enzymes and does contain a number of beneficial minerals, all of which are known to promote good health in humans.