Wheatgrass is a food prepared from the cotyledons of the common wheat plant, Triticum aestivum. It is sold either as a juice or powder concentrate. Wheatgrass differs from wheat malt in that it is served freeze-dried or fresh, while wheat malt is convectively dried. Wheatgrass is also allowed to grow longer than malt is.
It provides chlorophyll, amino acids, minerals, vitamins, and enzymes. Claims about the health benefits of wheatgrass range from providing supplemental nutrition to having unique curative properties.
Some consumers grow and juice wheatgrass in their homes. It is often available in juice bars, alone or in mixed fruit or vegetable drinks. It is also available in many health food stores as fresh produce, tablets, frozen juice and powder. Wheatgrass contains no wheat gluten.
The consumption of wheatgrass in the Western world began in the 1930s as a result of experiments conducted by Charles F. Schnabel in his attempts to popularize the plant.
Schnabel, an agricultural chemist, conducted his first experiments with young grasses in 1930, when he used fresh cut grass in an attempt to nurse dying hens back to health. The hens not only recovered, but they produced eggs at a higher rate than healthy hens. Encouraged by his results, he began drying and powdering grass for his family and neighbors to supplement their diets.
The following year, Schnabel reproduced his experiment and achieved the same results. Hens consuming rations supplemented with grass doubled their egg production. Schnabel started promoting his discovery to gristmills, chemists and the food industry.
Two large corporations, Quaker Oats and American Dairies Inc., invested millions of dollars in further research, development, and production of grass products for animals and humans. By 1940, cans of Schnabel's powdered grass were on sale in major drug stores throughout the United States and Canada.