What is Wheatgrass?

If you have looked to purchase wheatgrass before you have most likely done research on wheatgrass powder vs wheatgrass juice.  

While wheatgrass was originally researched and grown by Dr Charles Schnabel in the 1930s, Ann Wigmore introduced a new method of "Tray Grown wheatgrass" which you see with various wheatgrass products on the market these days.

You will find ones that compare indoor tray-grown wheatgrass with whole food wheatgrass grown by Pines International under natural conditions.

tray wheatgrass vs grown wheatgrass

How wheatgrass is grown makes a huge difference. PINES helped write the standards for organic wheatgrass growing in Kansas over 30 years ago and continues to use the same methods. 

As the first company to popularize wheatgrass in the natural food marketplace, we are still the only ones to use oxygen-free packaging. We also never use plastic containers that provide no protection and can cause contamination. Gluten-free PINES Wheat Grass, sold at leading natural food stores, contains essential vegetable fiber.

What does the USDA have to say?

The USDA food plate recommends we eat more from the vegetable group than any other food group. Of all vegetables, dark green leafy greens are the most important vegetables. They contain exactly what is missing in our diets. In fact, leafy greens are eaten by every other mammal. Some just nibble at it while other live entirely on it. The darker green a vegetable is, the more nutrition it contains.

The USDA developed its food plate based on research from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that showed that 9 out of 10 Americans are not eating enough vegetables and fruits to protect their health from nearly epidemic diet-related disease conditions in our society.

The USDA recommends that the vegetables you eat be mostly whole foods, not juice. That’s  because research indicates the importance of vegetable fiber for colon health and the prevention of degenerative disease.

Juice has its place, but whole foods are what we are designed to eat.  Recent research confirms that the majority of vegetable nutrition should come from whole food vegetables, not juice. Without fiber, juices can lead to damage to the mucous of the intestinal wall.

Blenders and other machines now make it easy to create whole foods smoothies. Smoothies have the benefits of juice but also contain the essential fiber. It is easy to add a spoonful of PINES Wheat Grass Powder, Green Duo Powder or Mighty Greens Powder.  These are all whole foods leafy green vegetable powders.

A spoonful of any PINES’ powder taking a few tablets or capsules is a serving of an economical and convenient dark green leafy vegetable. You can’t overdose on vegetable nutrition. In fact, the more chlorophyll-rich detoxifying antioxidant-rich whole foods in your diet the better.

Most mammals similar to humans eat large quantities of wholefood, dark green leafy vegetables and so should you! Curiously, we are the only animal that consumes vegetable and fruit juice. That is not necessarily a good thing. We need fiber and roughage in our diets so our colons can function properly, a reliance on juice should never replace wholefoods vegetables that contain important fiber.

This myth began with Ann Wigmore, who wrote the first book about growing wheatgrass indoors in trays. Her books praised the research by Dr. Charles Schnabel. Her bibliography contains references to him, Dr. George Kohler and other scientists who conducted the original research on wheatgrass, starting in the 1930s.

What Ann Wigmore did not understand was that their research was not with wheatgrass grown rapidly in crowded warm conditions in a tray. Their research was also not with juice. Their research was on hard red winter wheat that was not planted in a tray. It was planted outdoors in rich glacial soil. It was not grown in warm conditions. It was planted in the fall in Northeast Kansas. It grew slowly through freezing winter temperatures. It was harvested the following spring after 200 days of slow growth. When ready for harvest it was extremely dark green, loaded with nutrient density and still shorter than wheatgrass grown in a tray for 10 days. Schnabel’s wheatgrass was harvested as a whole food and was dried and milled into a whole food powder.

One of the laboratories those scientists used for that research is owned and still used by Pines International. Further, Pines still uses many of the same fields of rich alluvial glacial soil that these scientists found produced the highest quality wheatgrass. These fields have been certified organic for more than 20 years.

The above picture was taken in the early spring in a field of wheatgrass that Pines was getting ready to harvest. The wheatgrass in the center of this picture was grown for ten days using Ann Wigmore’s methods. Surrounding it is wheatgrass grown as nature intended through the often freezing temperatures of winter. The darker green the color of any vegetable the more chlorophyll and nutrition that is in it. This picture was taken in the early spring just prior to the harvest of Pines Wheat Grass.

Pines International still uses the low-temperature drying method (although improved) that was developed by these scientists. Ann Wigmore used as their research on wholefood wheatgrass grown through the winter as the scientific basis for her recommendations. In fact, Pines Wheat Grass is grown, harvested, dried and packaged in exactly the same manner as wheatgrass that was used in the research that inspired Wigmore to promote growing wheatgrass in a tray.

Ann Wigmore was a wonderful human being, who did more than any person in history to make people aware of the importance of raw foods for both health and healing, but she was not a farmer, scientist or objective researcher; however, it is clear she did not look deeper into the research to know the importance of growing wheatgrass through the winter and harvesting in the spring just before the jointing stage as was done in the research she used to support her beliefs.

Ann Wigmore made the incorrect assumption that growing wheatgrass in warm conditions for ten days was the same thing as growing it in fertile glacial soil for 200 days through the winter. Although other authors such as Viktoras Kulvinskas and Steve Meyerowitz have acknowledged she was wrong in this assumption, people still quote Ann Wigmore’s that one should use only the juice of her indoor-grown wheatgrass.

Tray grown wheatgrass juice is certainly a good source of chlorophyll and green food nutrients, but obviously from the pictures above, wheatgrass grown naturally outdoors through the winter in its appropriate climate provides much more chlorophyll and other nutrients associated with dark green, leafy vegetables. The important point is that most people do not eat enough dark green food. Our ancestors and other primates today make dark green vegetation the mainstay of their diets. It is a green food deficiency that causes some people to feel so much better after taking Pines Wheat Grass or drinking a “shot” of tray grown wheatgrass juice. There is no reason to feel that one should use one green food and not another. Eat as much green as you can and as often as you can!
This myth is sometimes stated by over-zealous proponents of indoor wheatgrass juice. They falsely claim that wheatgrass must be consumed as a juice because whole food wheatgrass contains “indigestible” cellulose. They fail to mention that whole food wheatgrass is not the only vegetable containing cellulose. Other cellulose vegetables include celery, broccoli, bean sprouts, alfalfa sprouts, green beans, potatoes, carrots, parsnips, cucumber, squash, zucchini and pumpkin. In fact, just about every vegetable, nut, fruit or grain that has ever been grown contains cellulose!

It is true that humans do not have a digestive tract designed to digest the cellulose itself, but our systems depend on the cellulose in plants to keep our colons functioning properly. If we lived on a diet of juices, our colons would shrink. Without cellulose fiber, probiotic bacteria would be replaced with the wrong kind of bacteria. Recent studies show that without fiber the digestive tract can actually be damaged. Witamins, minerals, phytonutrients, antioxidants, enzymes, contained in vegetables are fully digestible when you eat whole food vegetables.

Besides promoting the growth of the healthy probiotic bacteria needed for proper digestion, cellulose slows the transit time of food in the intestinal tract. That results in more time for absorption than with juices. There is nothing better for the colon than chlorophyll-rich roughage. It detoxifies and provides the perfect conditions for a healthy colon. Instead of impeding digestion, cellulose improves digestion!

Although it is true that some nutrients in juice (especially the sugars) are more quickly assimilated and can give the user a more immediate rush of energy, the fiber from which the juice was extracted is equally important for health because it ensures the nutrients are fully assimilated by the human digestive tract.

Further, Pines International mills its wheatgrass much finer than anyone can chew any vegetable. This makes Pines Wheat Grass as easy to assimilate as any vegetable pureed in a blender. The bottom line is that for 85 years, wheatgrass grown, harvested and dehydrated just like Pines Wheat Grass has produced a phenomenal body of research and thousands of personal testimonials from people who believe they obtained real results. Obviously, the nutrients in whole food wheatgrass are fully assimilated.
Steve Meyerowitz is known as “the sproutman” and is obviously biased toward growing wheatgrass and sprouts indoors, but Steve is also a responsible and intellectually honest man. He took the time and spent the funds to thoroughly compare dehydrated whole food wheatgrass powder with tray-grown wheatgrass juice in his book, Wheat Grass: Nature’s Finest Medicine.

His nutritional analysis shows that the protein content for one serving of Pines Wheat Grass is twice as high as an ounce of tray-grown juice. This fact makes sense when you look closely at Steve’s data. It also shows that wheatgrass grown unnaturally in trays has many times more sugar than wheatgrass grown naturally. Photosynthesis is the process chlorophyll in plants use to capture the energy of sunlight which it uses to convert water and carbon dioxide into a simple carbohydrates (sugars). It requires time, cold temperatures over many weeks to convert simple carbohydrates into more complex nutrients such as the amino acids. True wheatgrass from Pines is grown naturally through cold weather with roots going deep in glacial soil has is the perfect amino acid profile.

This perfect amino acid profile for cereal grasses such as wheatgrass is not possible when wheatgrass is grown unnaturally in extremely crowded tray conditions. During more than 200 days of slow growth under natural cold weather conditions, true wheatgrass like Pines Wheat Grass produces simple carbohydrates, too. The difference is that true wheatgrass has time and slow growth over the winter and often freezing temperatures with weeks of bright sunshine. The simple carbohydrates from photosynthesis are used to build amino acids and other complex nutrients. That cannot happen when wheatgrass is grown unnaurally in rapid, crowded, moldy tray conditions.

The reason many people drink wheatgrass juice is because they want the well known detoxifying effects of chlorophyll. Yet, Steve’s data shows that a serving of Pines Wheat Grass provides four times more chlorophyll than a “shot” of tray-grown juice. For those who buy the “shots,” a serving of tray grown wheatgrass juice supplies less nutrition but costs at least four times more than a serving of Pines Wheat Grass.

The fact that tray wheatgrass is not as concentrated in chlorophyll as Pines Wheat Grass is not surprising. You can see the obvious difference in color between tray wheatgrass and a wheatgrass grown as nature intended. Although tray grown wheatgrass is a great source of chlorophyll. When seen side-by-side, tray wheatgrass is pale by comparison. True wheatgrass as produced by Pines, which is ready for harvest in the picture below, is a deep vibrant green.

The deeper the green color, the more chlorophyll that is present. Again, slow growth in cold weather is what makes the difference. Chlorophyll production is stimulated by sunlight.

The longer a plant is exposed to sunlight, the darker green it becomes, so long as it is not forced to grow much more quickly than is natural to the plant. Pines Wheat Grass is grown as nature intended, for more than 200 days outdoors in often freezing temperatures, and much of that time is in direct sunlight. Even after 200 days, it is still not as tall as tray wheatgrass. Its leaves are thick and fleshy, not spindly and pale.

Wheatgrass needs those many days of bright sunlight and cold temperatures to build the highest nutritional levels. Compare 200 days of sunlight with growing wheatgrass under artificial lights or a greenhouse for 10 days, and it is clear why Pines Wheat Grass has four times more chlorophyll than tray-grown.
The hard red winter wheat seeds that most people use for tray-grown wheatgrass are harvested from winter wheat that was grown naturally outdoors through the winter. Wheatgrass grown indoors in warm conditions will never produce seed and contains mold and elevated levels of bacteria. Some tray-grown wheatgrass producers have blamed the seed for causing the mold and bacteria in their wheatgrass, but they are wrong.

A few years ago, Pines purchased some of the best greenhouse wheatgrass growing equipment available. Pines had planned to provide dehydrated tray-grown wheatgrass for those who were convinced that growing it indoors for ten days was superior to growing it outdoors as nature intended.

Since Pines has its own laboratory and tests its products at every stage of production and packaging, the laboratory tested the tray-grown wheatgrass, too. Mold had never been a problem for Pines naturally-grown wheatgrass because it grows in weather that is too cold for mold to grow. When the tray wheatgrass was tested, the mold levels were extremely high. The bacteria levels were also much higher than the outdoor-grown wheatgrass.

Although not as green as true wheatgrass grown as nature intended, the tray-grown wheatgrass Pines produced in its greenhouse looked beautiful. The mold and bacteria were not visible. They could only be detected with laboratory analysis, but the analysis showed extremely high levels compared to wheatgrass grown naturally outdoor through the winter.

Pines employees scrubbed the seeds but kept getting the same results. They tried rinsing the seeds and trays with vinegar, but mold and the high bacteria levels were still a problem. They even tried ammonia and concentrated bleach, but the results were still the same. The reason for the mold and elevated bacteria counts in tray-grown wheatgrass was not because of dirt on seeds that did not germinate that is some growers claim. It is because of the unnatural growing conditions.

No matter how clean your kitchen or greenhouse may be, mold spores and bacteria are everywhere in the air just waiting for the right environment to grow. Tray wheatgrass grows in exactly the kind of warm, humid conditions that mold and bacteria love. To make matters worse, tray wheatgrass growers crowd their wheat seeds right next to each other. This is very unnatural. Winter wheat farmers plant their seeds an inch apart in rows that are seven inches apart. The seeds are planted in the fall while the soil is still warm but the air temperatures are getting down toward freezing. This induces wheatgrass that is grown naturally to push roots down a foot deep or more in the rich glacial soil of the fields used by Pines. Although the roots go deep, because of the cold air, the plant grown only an inch or two of leaf as winter arrives.

This pictures shows wheatgrass growing as nature intended in the middles of winter. The leaves are only two inches long but the roots have gone deep in the glacial soil and are busy preparing for spring. Farmers have grown winter wheat that way for hundreds of years. Instead of the roots spreading out and going deep as nature intended, the roots for tray-grown wheatgrass are crowded in a tangled maze that very quickly becomes loaded with high levels of mold and bacteria.

This is the same field as above but at the time of harvest in early April. The nutrition in the leaves has been building slowly all winter to prepare the plant for the rapid growth and development of the seed that will occur later. Pines harvests before the development of the seed while the plant is still a very naturally-concentrated deep green, gluten-free, leafy vegetable that is much more concentrated in chlorophyll and nutrition than other vegetables.
Actually, the reason for nausea in some people is more likely caused by the high sugar content combined with the toxicity of the bacteria and mold that accompanies wheatgrass grown in unnatural conditions, not detoxification by the wheatgrass. Commercial tray wheatgrass growers and suppliers as well a proponents of growing it in one’s own kitchen often play down the mold and bacteria in tray wheatgrass, claiming it is not harmful and is simply caused by spores and bacteria on seeds that do not germinate. Most people become tolerant of the mold and bacteria in tray wheatgrass juice over time. Although they are not receiving as much green food nutrition as they would receive with wholefood wheatgrass grown naturally like Pines Wheat Grass, the green food nutrients in tray grown wheatgrass are definitely something that most people need more of in their diets.

But some people do react negatively to wheatgrass grown in these rather unnatural conditions. When someone has a reaction, tray-grown enthusiasts sometimes write it off, not as an allergic reaction, but rather the result of a “healing crisis” or “detoxification.” Although wheatgrass mold does not affect everyone in a negative way, some molds are toxic to some people. The same is true with bacteria. There are thousands of kinds of bacteria. Some are beneficial, some are benign and some are deadly.

Pines International tests its wheatgrass at every stage of production for bacteria, mold, and potential pathogens such as E. coli and salmonella. Pines’ products have never tested positive for any pathogen. Pines Wheat Grass is grown outdoors in cold weather so contamination with mold and pathogens does not occur. Yet, Pines continues to test every batch in its own laboratory and in outside labs to confirm the results.

Indoor or greenhouse wheatgrass is not tested, even when it comes from commercial sources. Such wheatgrass is growing 20 times faster than nature intended and the seeds 300 times closer than nature intended. Further, the growing conditions are warm and humid. All that is completely unnatural to the way young wheatgrass is supposed to grow. Those unnatural conditions could potentially lead to problems, including not only so-called “harmless” molds and bacteria, but also potentially dangerous pathogens.

In 2011, more than a dozen people died and thousands became very sick from deadly E. coli bacteria believed to be in sprouts from an organic greenhouse in Germany. As a result, several large food chains in the United States have banned sprouts from their produce departments. Tray grown wheatgrass is a sprout that has been allowed to grow for several days longer than most other sprouts. This makes it even more susceptible to mold, bacteria and potential pathogens that thrive in warm, humid conditions. The fact that unlike Pines, most of these producers do not test for pathogens is a concern.

All this is not to say you should never use tray-grown wheatgrass. Most people have good results with it, but one should be aware of the potential dangers and downsides of growing a plant in a method that is so much different than what nature intended.

As an alternative to tray-grown juice, try mixing a rounded teaspoon of Pines Wheat Grass with another raw vegetable juice, smoothie or even water. If you want it sweeter, you can also add some honey, barley malt or other natural sweetener. Shake, stir or blend and you will have a wheatgrass cocktail that contains four times more chlorophyll, more protein and more minerals than a shot of tray-grown wheatgrass juice. In addition to reducing risks of contamination by mold and bacteria, fortifying another vegetable juice with Pines Wheat Grass adds additional vegetable fiber to your diet. The combination of vegetable fiber and chlorophyll is exactly what your colon needs to function properly. Chlorophyll and vegetable fiber is also essential for probiotics (friendly bacteria) to grow and do their job.

In addition to fortifying your juice with Pines Wheat Grass, use at least two more rounded teaspoons each day mixed with other juices or smoothies. There are many great recipe ideas our customers have discovered. For convenience, many Pines Wheat Grass enthusiasts use the tablets to ensure their colons have plenty of vegetable fiber and chlorophyll to help remove toxins and provide important green food nutrition in the diet. Pines Wheat Grass tablets swell to 12 times their size in liquid, so it is easy to see why a seven tablet serving of Pines Wheat Grass provides as much or more nutrition than spinach or other dark green leafy vegetables.

All wheatgrass powders are not grown and harvested in the same way as Pines Wheat Grass. Most are not packaged with oxygen. An oxygen-free atmosphere for shipment and storage can only be achieved with environmentally-friendly amber glass bottles and special metal caps. Accept no substitutes. Always depend on the high nutritional level of Pines Wheat Grass.

The low-temperature drying method used by Pines was developed by Dr. Schnabel and other scientists. Whole food wheatgrass and other cereal grass dried with this process was the material used for the phenomenal research by these scientists and by medical professionals. That research inspired Ann Wigmore, Viktoras Kulvinskas, Steve Meyerowitz, Ron Seibold and other authors to write about wheatgrass dried in this time-honored tradition. The scientists found Schnabel’s low-temperature drying method was the best drying method to protect cereal grass nutrients. Yet, after all that research on low-temperature dried cereal grass, some companies started claiming that freeze drying was better.

It is debatable whether freeze drying is better, but one thing is certain: most companies are freeze drying tray-grown greenhouse wheatgrass, not true wheatgrass. Research has shown that tray-grown wheatgrass has considerably less nutrition than true wheatgrass. Clearly, the end result of freeze drying tray-grown wheatgrass cannot possibly have a higher nutritional value than wheatgrass grown under natural conditions in glacial soils and an appropriate climate where the wheatgrass can grow slowly through the often freezing temperatures and bright sunlight of winter.

Freeze dried wheatgrass is also very expensive, costing about $1 per gram, while Pines Wheat Grass powder costs as little as 5 cents per gram. In other words, freeze dried costs 20 times more but provides less nutrition than Pines Wheat Grass. Yet, these companies would have you believe that freeze drying is somehow much better than Dr. Schnabel’s low-temperature drying that produced positive results for more than 80 years.

When Charles Schnabel and his team of scientists discovered the incredible nutrition in dehydrated whole food wheat grass in 1935, they insisted that the product be packaged in amber glass bottles with an inert atmosphere containing no oxygen. They used special metal caps with a strong seal to keep the outside air from getting into the product during shipment and storage. With the oxygen removed, nutrients are protected against oxidation and loss of potency. Despite any claims to the contrary, plastic cannot hold an oxygen-free environment.

Pines International still grows gluten free, organic wheatgrass in the same kind of glacial soils as Dr. Schnabel and is the only company to use amber glass bottles for wheatgrass with the oxygen removed and special caps as the research indicated. The difference in color between wheatgrass in glass and the plastic bottles in the photo is obvious. Even a glass bottle with the plastic cap results in a poor quality product because the a plastic cap cannot hold an oxygen free environment and protect against the oxidation that results in the poor color of these other products. The darker and richer the green of vegetable powder, the more nutrition that is in it. Oxidation slowly turns a green food from vibrant green to dull green or even grey or brown. Not only does a more vibrant green color indicate the more chlorophyll, vitamins, phytonutrients, and enzymes, it is also true that the greener the food, the higher the the antioxidant value (ORAC) it has.

Only a glass bottle with a metal cap and a specially-designed seal can hold an oxygen-free atmosphere. Although plastic looks impermeable, it is not. If you look at plastic under an electron microscope, the space between molecules is wide enough for easy transfer of air and humidity from outside the bottle into the bottle. Filling a plastic bottle, bag, or paper/plastic/foil packet or sack with an inert atmosphere of nitrogen like Pines does with its glass bottles and special metal caps sounds like the same thing, but it isn’t. Unless the walls of the container are thick metal or glass and the caps are metal with a tight seal, the atmosphere and humidity from the outside air can mix with the contents on the inside.

You can also see another problem, especially with a pigmented food like wheatgrass. The inside of the plastic containers often become stained by pigmented food. This means the food has mixed with the plastic. Obviously, if the food has mixed with the plastic, the plastic mixed with the food.

Plastic is usually made from petrochemicals. Supporting the petrochemical industry perpetuates our dependence on fossil fuels. Moreover, even BPA-free plastic contains estrogen-like chemicals that have been shown to interfere with the human endocrine system. Eating food that has been in direct contact with plastic coupled with the loss of nutrition of a wonderful food like wheatgrass is not a healthy choice nor is it an environmentally sustainable choice.