Streams

Last Chance Foods: Graze on This

Thursday, March 28, 2013

There’s a warehouse space near the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn where pallets of wheatgrass are carefully grown in a temperature controlled environment and gently misted every three hours. Sounds like a pretty sweet life, right?

Stewart Borowsky, also known as the Union Square Grassman, has been growing wheatgrass and selling it at the Union Square farmers market since 1994. He said that spring is when his wheatgrass thrives.

“Wheatgrass is really a young wheat plant [that] is grown for about seven days until it’s in initial grass stage,” Borowsky said. Wheatgrass, which is from the same plant that produces wheat for bread, has a reputation for being a super health food favored by hippies, and he says that hasn’t really changed much in the last two decades.

There’s some science behind that reputation. “[Wheatgrass] is a microgreen and microgreens generally will have the nutrients that are associated with green vegetables, as well as some of the original nutrition that comes from the seed itself,” Borowsky explained.

The difference between wheatgrass and something you’d put in your salad is primarily taste and texture. “The truth is that the wheatgrass has a lot of fiber,” Borowsky said. “I always try and compare it to sugarcane in that you would chew the sugar cane or you would juice it but you wouldn’t really chop it up and put it in fruit salad. And that would be kind of the same example I would give for wheatgrass.”

Human teeth would have to put in an onerous amount of work to break down those fibers. “If you’ve ever seen a cow having a good time, that’s what’s going on,” Borowsky said.

(Photo: Stewart Borowsky/Courtesy of Union Square Grassman)

That’s also why a traditional juicer or blender won’t do the trick in liquefying wheatgrass. Instead, it needs to be processed with machines that are better designed to crush and press the greens.

The bright green color helps attract New Yorkers and tourists alike to his stand, said Borowsky. He notes that many people find the sharp and, at times, startling flavor of wheatgrass to be familiar. “I think a lot of people, when they drink the wheatgrass, no matter where they’re from, they will recall having had it in their youth,” he said, adding that a lot of older generations from the Caribbean, Asia, and Eastern Europe also consume wheatgrass.

Of course, animals are also drawn to the greenery, which is why wheatgrass is also known as “cat grass.” The greens helps animals’ digestive systems. Even domesticated pets who have little access to the outdoors have a natural inclination to graze on it, according to Borowsky. 

The added bonus is that, even if you don’t have the infrastructure in place to gently mist wheatgrass every three hours, it’s still makes for a lively house plant. “The truth is that wheatgrass is one of the easiest things for people to grow at home,” said Borowsky. “It really requires only a clean, well-lit area that’s not too hot.”

Below, try Borowsky’s suggestions for juices that use wheatgrass. Wheatgrass

Fruit Mix

1 or 2 oz. of wheatgrass juice per 12 oz. of fruit juice or coconut water

Vegetable Mix

  • 1/4 lb (two handfuls) clipped wheatgrass
  • 3 large carrots
  • 1/2 medium beet
  • 1/2 oz (1" cube) of ginger

 

 

Guests:

Stewart Borowsky

Hosted by:

Amy Eddings

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Last Chance Foods covers produce that’s about to go out of season, gives you a heads up on what’s still available at the farmers market and tells you how to keep it fresh through the winter.

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