Monday, October 26, 2009

Certified Organic vs. Regular Top Soil

by Ellen McGlynn

Let me start by saying that while I am a fan of the organics industry, I am not a fan of Certified Organic or OMRI-approved soil. First of all, it is pricey (pound for pound, it is exponentially more pricey than regular organically-derived top soil); secondly, I am not sufficiently satisfied with the baseline soil standards established by the National Organics Program to want to spend the extra money on Certified Organic or OMRI-approved soil. Here is the reason why:

Several years ago, a situation arose regarding the contamination of well water in the area immediately surrounding my home. This brought out the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Environmental Protection, and any number of government officials to help establish the extent of the problem and come up with solutions for its remediation. Consequently, my own property was tested in every way, shape, and form, including surface soil testing approximately six feet deep in several areas of my three-and-one-half acre property. While the results of this soil test reported none of the contaminants in question, the results were nonetheless SHOCKING. The number of other contaminants found in my soil were enough to make an average person think that my home was built on a nuclear waste site. In actuality, my home stands in a clean, wooded, hilly rural area that had been cleared just six years prior to the environmental scare in order to build the home, and no contaminants had been used on the property since.

At the time of this soil test, I was in the process of applying for organic certification, so you could imagine my distress with these results. After contacting the EPA and Pennsylvania Certified Organic, I was left with the following information: 1) the contaminants in my soil were "typical" and almost ubiquitous; and 2) Pennsylvania Certified Organic does not really have a baseline standard for "clean" soil. Their purpose is just to insure that persons seeking certification have not used non-certified chemicals on their property in the three years prior to making their application.

That was not even nearly enough to ease my mind. It only served to make me acutely aware of how poisoned our environment is and how desensitized our government has become to environmental issues. The only relief I found in speaking to these environmental agencies was knowing that I had never financially taxed my small business with the expense of applying for certification or buying OMRI-approved soil just to be able call my wheatgrass "Certified Organic."  In accordance with my own ideals and what I would expect of any certifying organization, I just couldn't fathom how it was possible to  even consider labeling soil for Certified Organic use without first establishing baseline limits for soil contamination (and not just the obvious contaminants like heavy metals).

Now, this was several years ago, and there's a chance that maybe things have changed since then, so for that reason, I would happily welcome any return blog posts to help educate us all. But for now my recommendation is to not waste money on expensive Certified Organic or OMRI-approved soil unless you find that that it really helps take the guesswork out of growing your own wheatgrass or improves your mental framework in some way. As an alternative, I'll be back again next week to offer other solutions for growing wheatgrass in a less expensive, high-quality soil base.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

"Don't I Need a Special Juicer?"

by Ellen McGlynn

The number one question customers have asked me over the years as they’ve begun to contemplate their use of wheatgrass is, “Don’t I need a special juicer?”  Yes, it’s true, not all juicers are created equal, and wheatgrass does require a special kind of juicer—one with a smooth auger as opposed to a serrated one, and definitely not a centrifugal juicer.  The good news is that your options today are far greater than they were 10 years ago, and I personally found my dream juicer about four years ago.  I will not bog you down with all the finer points of the many juicers available on the market today; that’s all been done a thousand times over on professional juicing websites.  My purpose here is to tell you which product I have recommended to my customers for years with the assurance that I have personally only heard positive things about this juicer’s performance.

The all-purpose Omega 8005 Nutrition Center (sleek in black and chrome but also available in white) has been my ideal kitchen companion in so many ways and has also served me on a commercial level for rigorous juicing events.  It is still ticking, I am still in love with it, and I am still finding new uses for it.  If this were not a machine, I would marry it!   It operates quietly in comparison to other juicers on the market, cleans most easily (a HUGE selling point for me), and assembles/disassembles quickly.  When I’m done juicing (which can be up to several times a day), I just rinse the parts and set them to dry in an attractive colander near my sink.  When I run my dishwasher, the parts are right there for the grabbing.  Cleanup could not be easier!

The 8005 model has now been upgraded to an 8006, though I cannot see any difference in features other than a heavier duty auger and an upgraded warranty (and from what I have read, Omega truly honors their warranties).  The downside of the Omega 8005, and now the 8006, is its upscale price.  Because of its all-purpose abilities (it can juice fruits, hard vegetables, fibrous greens including wheatgrass, and even make spaghetti), you will be making an investment in a mid-priced juicer (roughly about $250-$300) rather than throwing out cash for a less durable machine with limited capabilities and perhaps even annoying qualities.  Trust me; spend the extra money on the Omega Nutrition Center because this gentle workhorse is well worth the price.  My other juicers have been banished to the closet ever since this handsome package arrived.
For those of you who are willing to spend above and beyond the middling range, I urge you to seriously consider whether or not bigger is really better.  I have had customers who were deeply satisfied and even amazed by their more expensive Green Star products, reporting  greater juice extraction than what I was experiencing with my Omega, but the differences were just not enough to make me want to spend a couple hundred dollars more, even for my commercial needs.

So there you have it:  the Omega 8005 Nutrition Center.

I hope you have found this endorsement helpful.  Good luck and happy juicing!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Return of The Wheatgrass Grower

by Ellen McGlynn

I have returned!

Halt!  Not as a regular grower, but as a writer and for special events.  First, my apologies to all who have tapped my website in recent months only to find a dead space.  This has been a somewhat melancholy transitional time, a letting go of the growing side of the business and  daily waking  of the sprouts, and re-focusing in areas where I can still make a contribution to the awareness and support of wheatgrass as a dietary supplement.  Years of growing, shipping, showcasing, and chatting about wheatgrass have left me with tons of digital files that should not be buried in the hallows of my external hard drive.  And so, I have blog about wheatgrass.

Above all, I am an expert on how to grow a high-quality product that has received accolades from some of this country's most experienced wheatgrass buyers, so I hope you will feel free to use this forum as a way of working out your growing inhibitions.   You won't regret it.

Don't forget to check back often for new postings.  Aside from growing tips, juicing recommendations,  and nutritional information, I'll be posting creative ideas for floral arrangements and appealing recipes.

Why Wheatgrass?

by Ellen McGlynn

Though the therapeutic use of wheatgrass has been in practice for many decades and has gained almost a cult following among proponents of alternative medicine, it has received its fair share of negative commentary from conventional health professionals due to its lack of controlled scientific studies.  Fortunately, in recent years, various research institutions around the world have ventured to discover the truth about this mysterious green substance, all with supporting evidence that wheatgrass really “does a body good.”

What health benefits does fresh wheatgrass juice offer?

In a 2004 study conducted by researchers at an Indian pediatric unit, positive effects were found in 50% of anemic patients who took 100mL (3.38 ounces) of fresh wheatgrass juice daily for over a year, reducing transfusion requirements in some patients by as much as 40% (1).   In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study at a gastroenterology unit covering three major Israeli cities, significant reductions in overall disease activity and rectal bleeding were found in ulcerative colitis patients who consumed 100mL of fresh wheatgrass juice daily for a month (2).  In a 1999 Finnish study of rheumatoid arthritis patients who were subjected to a living foods diet that included wheatgrass juice, patients not only subjectively reported improvements in their conditions, but their serum parameters and fecal analyses confirmed it, suggesting that a living foods diet (of which wheatgrass is often a major part) may lead to a lessening of not just one but several health risk factors including cardiovascular diseases and cancer (3).

What makes fresh wheatgrass so effective?

It is still speculative as to what exactly makes fresh wheatgrass so effective.  While wheatgrass is full of vitamins and minerals, it is also very high in chlorophyll.  One ounce of fresh wheatgrass juice contains 4-12mg of chlorophyll (4). The effects of chlorophyll and its extracts have been studied extensively since the 1950’s and have proven beneficial for a wide range of health issues including wound healing and internal body odor (5), liver cancer caused by food-induced toxins (6,7,8), colon cancer caused by food-induced toxins (10,15), and the carcinogenic effects of environmental toxins such as cigarette smoke, coal dust, and diesel emissions (19).  Though scientists have tried to isolate the micronutrients and phytochemicals responsible for the effectiveness of high-chlorophyll foods, it is agreed that whole plant-based foods offer a healthier and more effective delivery system (10,11,12,14) as well as a more practical approach to disease prevention (6).

What are the main nutrients in wheatgrass juice?

Wheatgrass juice is actually 95% water.  On average, it also contains about 2% protein.  The remaining 3% contains over 80 other nutrients.  According to the Irvine Analytical Laboratory report courtesy of Optimum Health Institute in California, one ounce of indoor-grown fresh wheatgrass juice contains approximately 2.86mcg Biotin, 122IU Vitamin A, .3mcg Vitamin B-12, 4.3IU Vitamin E, 1mg Vitamin C, 8.3mcg Folic Acid, 21.4mg Phosphorus, 8mg Magnesium, .66mg Iron, 7.2mg Calcium, and 42mg Potassium (4). 

How does fresh wheatgrass juice compare with other vegetables and natural supplements?

In a 2006 study by the Chemistry Department at the University of Pune in Pune, India, antioxidant activity was measured in fresh wheatgrass grown under various conditions and extracted for comparison against a commercially available wheatgrass tablet.  A higher level of antioxidant activity was found in the soil-grown (3990 mmol/100g) as opposed to the hydroponically-grown (3740 mmol/100g) wheatgrass juice, although the variation was not considered significant.  Additionally, the oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) on day 10 of growth for both hydroponically-grown  and soil-grown  wheatgrass was higher than ORAC units reported for the wheatgrass tablet (1380 mmol/100g) as well as many other high-ORAC fruits and vegetables. (13,16)

ORAC Units per 100 Grams (About 3.5 Oz.)
Wheatgrass Juice





High-ORAC foods are known to help raise the antioxidant power of human blood, provide protection from cell damage, and slow processes associated with aging (16,17,18).

Will wheatgrass interfere with my medications?

As chlorophyll has shown to have detoxifying and blood-clotting effects, wheatgrass juice may interfere with certain pharmaceuticals, particularly anticoagulants.  Consult your physician about the use of wheatgrass juice in combination with other drugs.   It may be best to reserve wheatgrass for use only BEFORE or AFTER specific drug treatments. 

Are there any side effects from fresh wheatgrass juice?

There are no known reports of wheatgrass or chlorophyll toxicity.  Some people may experience darkened stools or mild stomach upset when first starting a wheatgrass juice regimen.

How is wheatgrass prepared for consumption?

Humans do not produce the enzyme cellulase required to properly digest the cellulose structure of grass. Wheatgrass must be juiced.  This requires the use of a special wheatgrass juicer, which has a gentler extraction mechanism than regular juicers.  Wheatgrass juicers may also be used for juicing soft berries, which can be blended with wheatgrass juice to improve the taste.         

How often should I drink wheatgrass juice?

Taken as a preventative, an ounce a day may be sufficient.  Therapeutically, effects have been experienced by taking three to four ounces per day.  Juice should be taken on an empty stomach one hour before meals.  

How much juice can be had from 1 pound of fresh-cut wheatgrass? 

Ten to 12 ounces of juice per pound of cut wheatgrass can be expected from a good wheatgrass juicer. 

How long will the cut wheatgrass stay fresh?

Fresh-cut wheatgrass can stay fresh in the refrigerator  for up to two weeks. 

How long does wheatgrass juice stay fresh?

The chemical structure of fresh wheatgrass juice is very unstable.  Once the grass is juiced, its breaks down rather quickly and loses its nutritional value.   Fresh wheatgrass should be consumed or frozen almost immediately after juicing.


1.  Marawaha RK, Bansal D, Kaur S, Trehan A.  Wheat grass juice reduces transfusion requirement in patients with thalassemia major: a pilot study.  Indian Petiatr.  2004;Jul;41(7):716-20.

2..  Ben-Arye E, Goldin E, Wengrower D, Stamper A, Kohn R, Berry E.  Wheat grass juice in the treatment of active distal ulcerative colitis: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Scand J Gastroenterol. 2002;Apr;37(4):444-9.

3.  Hanninen O, Rauma AL, Kaartinen K, Nenonen M.  Vegan diet in physiological health promotion.  Acta Physiol Hung.1999; 86(3-4):171-80.

4.  Meyerowitz S.  Wheatgrass: Nature’s finest medicine.  6th ed. Summertown (TN):Book; 1999.

5. Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute. Corvalis (OR); Updated 2005 Dec 21; cited 2006 Oct 3.  Chlorophyll and Chlorophyllin.  Available from: infocenter/phytochemicals/chlorophylls/.

6.  Egner PA, Wang JB, Zhu YR, Zhang BC, Wu Y, Zhang QN, Qian GS, Kuang SY, Gange SJ, Jacobson LP, Helzlsouer KJ, Bailey GS, Groopman JD, Kensler TW.  Chlorophyllin intervention reduces aflatoxin-DNA adducts in individuals at high risk for liver cancer.  Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2001;Dec4;98(25):14601-6.

7.  Kensler TW, Egner PA, Wang JB, Zhu YR, Zhang BC, Qian GS, Kuang SY, Gange SJ, Jacobson LP, Munoz A, Groopman JD. Strategies for chemoprevention of liver cancer.  Eur J Cancer Prev. 2002;Aug;11Suppl 2:S58-64.

8.  Egner PA, Munoz A, Kensler TW.  Chemoprevention with chlorophyllin in individuals exposed to dietary aflatoxin. Mutat Res. 2003;Feb-Mar;523-524:209-16.

9.  Ouameur AA, Marty R, Tajmir-Riahi HA. Human serum albumin complexes with chlorophyll and chlorophyllin. Biopolymers. 2005;Feb15;77(3):129-36.

10.  de Vogel J, Jonker-Termont DS, Katan MB, van der Meer R. Natural chlorophyll but not chlorophyllin prevents heme-induced cytotoxic and hyperproliferative effects in rat colon. J Nutr. 2005;Aug;135(8):1995-2000.

11.  Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute. Corvalis (OR); cited 2006 Oct 3.  Plant-Based Foods.  Available from: infocenter/foods.html.

12.  Fahey JW, Stephenson KK, Dinkova-Kostova AT, Egner P, Kensler TW, Talalay P. Chlorophyll, chlorophyllin and related tetrapyrroles are significant inducers of mammalian phase 2 cytoprotective genes. Carcinogenesis. 2005;Jul26(7):1247-55.

13.  Kulkarni SD, Tilak JC, Achaarya R, Rajurkar NS, Devasagayam TP, Reddy AV.  Evaluation of the antioxidant activity of wheatgrass (Triticum aestivum L.) as a function of growth under different conditions.  Phytother Res. 2006;Mar;20(3):218-27.

14.  Sarkar D, Sharma A, Talukder G.  Chlorophyll and chromosome breakage.  Mutat Res. 1996;Aug8;360(3):187-91.

15.  Diaz GD, Li Q, Dashwood RH.  Capase-8 and apoptosis-inducing factor mediate a cytochrome c-independent pathway of apoptosis in human colon cancer cells induced by a dietary phytochemical chlorophyllin. 2003;Mar15;63(6)1254-61.

16.  USDA Agricultural Research Service. Updated 13 Aug 2003.  Cited 6 Oct 2006.  Food & Nutrition Briefs.  Available from:

17.  Cao G, Booth SL, Sadowski JA, Prior RL.  Increases in human plasma antioxidant capacity after consumption of controlled diets high in fruit and vegetables. Am J Clin Nutr. 1998;68:1081-7.

18.  Cao G, Russel RM, Lischner N, Prior RL. Serum antioxidant capacity is increased by consumption of strawberries, spinach, red wine or vitamin C in elderly women.  J Nutr. 1998 Dec;128(12):2383-90.

19.  Ong T, Whong WZ, Stewart J, Brockman HE. Chlorophyllin: a potent antimutagen against environmental and dietary complex mixtures.  Mutat Res. 1986 Feb;173(2):111-5.