Grassfire!

DON’T CUT IT, BAG IT OR SMOKE IT.  THIS GRASS WAS MADE FOR DRINKING AND IT JUST MIGHT SAVE YOUR LIFE.

STORY BY EMMA LOCKWOOD  |  PHOTOS BY PHILLIP HARDER

Not since confederate Colonel John Pemberton began peddling Coca-Cola at his Columbus, Georgia pharmacy in 1885, has the beverage market developed a new elixir that is credited with so many remarkable benefits.  Such is the state of affairs in the metro as juice bars have begun to pop up like daffodils at Easter with an offering as unlikely as it is exceptional.

In a word, it’s wheatgrass.

The list of it’s benefits are as comprehensive as they are miraculous:

  • “Slows the aging process”
  • “Arrests growth and development of unfriendly bacteria”
  • “Clears up head colds”
  • “Purifies the liver”
  • “Improves blood sugar problems like diabetes”
  • “Suppresses appetite”
  • “Restores fertility”
  • “Eliminates toothaches”
  • “Prevents gray hair”
  • “Improves digestion”

However unlike Coca-Cola, the recipe for which is cloaked under a veil of secrecy, patents and trademarks; the creation of wheatgrass juice is something that occurs right before the consumer’s very eyes, from the planting and growing of the crop, to the harvesting, cleaning and final preparation.

“In order for the consumer to realize the maximum benefits of wheatgrass, it’s important that it be consumed as soon after juicing as possible,” says local juicer, Cory DeWitt, owner of The Juice Company in The Shops at Roosevelt on 42nd Street in Des Moines.

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In the case of The Juice Company, a couple of ounces of wheatgrass can be created from grass that is harvested, washed, prepared and juiced in less than a minute.  This hyper-fresh approach is made possible by the fact that the plant is organically grown in special containers that have been installed in the front windows of the shop.

“At The Juice Company, ‘farm-to-table’ refers to a distance of about 15 feet,” says Cory with a smile.

Cory’s interest in health and fitness is part of a family tradition that dates back at least four generations to Hamilton, Ontario, when his great-grandmother Stanca arrived on a boat from Bulgaria.  After arriving, Stanca began working as an herbalist who created and prescribed natural remedies for people who were ill.  Her reputation as a compassionate and effective healer quickly grew beyond the region.  Throughout her career, she was called upon by clients in both the United States and Canada.

Cory’s mother, Sylvia, was raised in Iowa but admits that her earliest childhood memories are dedicated to her grandmother’s enigmatic visits.

“When she would come to visit, she wouldn’t eat our food,” recalled Sylvia, with amusement.  “We lived on a farm and only ate things that were grown on our property, but she was a vegetarian with a very strict diet.”

Stance lived to be nearly 100 years old and after Sylvia’s mother passed away suddenly from cancer at a young age, Sylvia began to test some of her grandmother’s beliefs against a growing body of scientific research.

“The research on diet is quite compelling,” Sylvia said. “We know that natural substances like wheatgrass, dandelion root and fermented wheat germ have powerful medicinal properties that can be used as part of a multi-pronged approach to treating and managing autoimmune diseases and cancer.”

“When you reach my age,” Sylvia said, “people start to expire - both physically and mentally - and we have found that there are many natural remedies that can help with that.”

“One example is how the chlorophyll in wheatgrass binds on a molecular level with toxins and carcinogens that you get in your body everyday and then help to expel these toxins from your system,” said Sylvia.

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In support of this claim, juicers point to a study by the United States Army, which exposed guinea pigs to lethal doses of radiation, similar to those used during a course of radiation therapy performed on many cancer patients.  The guinea pigs that were fed chlorophyll-rich diets had half the mortality rate as those fed a non-chlorophyll diet.

In addition to promoting health and healing, wheatgrass has also been shown to increase endurance.  A study by the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine found that wheatgrass could improve endurance by as much as 16%.

Cassie Cimaglia, the Director of Process Improvement for Perficut Companies, was recently “prescribed” wheatgrass by her physical trainer as part of her preparation for a marathon.

“As a professional who is dedicated to process improvement, I’m constantly on the lookout for ways to improve my personal performance,” said Cimaglia during a recent visit to The Juice Company.  “Especially when it involves cutting grass,” she added with a wink and a nod to Cassie’s employer Perficut, who maintains hundreds of acres of commercial turf throughout the region.

“What do you think about the taste?” Cory asked as she tipped back a two-ounce shot before chasing it with an orange slice.

“Well.  [Stifling a cough.]   I don’t know how to say this.  I guess it tastes a bit like grass!”  She said.

And then while reaching her hand to her forehead with a few rapid blinks, “But oh my gosh, it doesn’t take long for this stuff to kick in!”

“That’s normal,” Cory adds.  “That’s the feeling of your brain thanking you for all those micronutrients.”

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You can visit Cory and Sylvia at The Juice Company in the Shops at Roosevelt, 845 42nd Street in Des Moines or at their new location at 833 1st Street in Ankeny.

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