Published by City Farmer, Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture


Wheatgrass and Mold


Written in 2008

I am Harley Matsil, president of Perfect Foods Inc, the largest wheatgrass grower in NYC for over 25 years. I would like to respond to the first e-mail from the outdoor wheatgrass grower, Evergreen from Canada.

I will address the following: a) varieties of mold on wheatgrass and their health implications and b) the defense of indoor-grown wheatgrass vs. outdoor-grown. In short, the mold grown on wheatgrass is nearly impossible to completely avoid, and it is not the cause of any adverse effects.

Wheatgrass Mold Varieties

There are a few varieties of mold which commonly grow on wheatgrass and are very difficult to avoid. Almost every wheat seed that gets planted produces a small amount of a "blue fuzz" mold. This is a type of "slime mold", a non-pathogenic mold (i.e. not harmful) which does not penetrate the plant. More information can be found from Sproutman's testing here. This mold can simply be cut above and rinsed off before the grass is juiced. Other varieties (white or brown) can be harmful, however they usually kill the plant, and it is obvious the food is spoiled (just like with any produce). All our trays at Perfect Foods are thoroughly inspected for any molds. With our experience and high level of cleanliness, we have created a controlled environment that has not produced a "bad mold" tray in years.

Wheatgrass Mold Doesn't Cause Health Problems

Because the mold which commonly grows on wheatgrass, "blue fuzz" slime mold, is non-pathogenic, by definition it does not cause harm to the human body. It is true that upon drinking a large amount of wheatgrass for the first few times, side effects of slight headache and/or nausea may occur. These effects usually dissipate within an hour or so. Even if one continues to drink a lot of fresh wheatgass juice, within a few days this discomfort will be replaced with just the opposite, a feeling of well being! Note, our customers claim to experience these same side effects after drinking our frozen wheatgrass juice, a lab-tested mold-free product. This leads us to the conclusion that mold is not the cause of these effects.

What does cause the temporary effects can be disputed although it is widely attributed to "detoxification." A "detox" effect occurs when the body rapidly undergoes removal of toxins such as heavy metals, bad fats, carcinogens, metabolic waste, and impurities in the human body. This rapid excretion of toxins subsequently causes headache and nausea, the same effects that have been incorrectly attributed to mold. Once the toxins are removed from the body, the side effects will no longer occur. In the health food industry it is said, "The more you feel it, the more you need it." My claim that these "detox effects" subside over a short period of time comes from speaking with tens of thousands of consumers at health conventions and juice bars.

Other Possible Causes of Side Effects

Besides detoxification, another reason why one might feel nauseous after drinking wheatgrass juice is if you drank it with or after a meal. Wheatgrass juice does not combine well with other foods and should always be taken on an empty stomach. After you drink wheatgrass juice, we suggest waiting an hour before eating; that's about how long it takes for the juice to be assimilated.

Finally, if you drink too much wheatgrass juice, you could feel uncomfortable. The general rule is to drink no more than 3 ounces at a time. (This isn't orange juice; don't try to shoot down an 8-ounce glass of it!)

The Real Issue: Indoor Grown Wheatgrass vs Outdoor Grown

Our "outdoor grown" competitor, in the e-mail below, conveniently failed to mention that the original wheatgrass grown by Anne Wigmore was indoor grown. It is just such wheatgrass that has built wheatgrass' reputation as the most nutritious and healing food known. There are a number of prestigious health institutions which use indoor grown wheatgrass in their programs with great success, including the Hippocrates Institute in West Palm Beach, Florida; the Optimum Health Institute of San Diego, California; and the Anne Wigmore Institute in Puerto Rico. Our company, Perfect Foods, is the original creator of frozen wheatgrass juice and we have been growing it indoors for over 25 years.

By growing wheatgrass indoors, we have much greater control over growing conditions, which results in a far superior product. Indoor grown wheatgrass is much younger. At 7-10 days old the grass is much higher in enzymes and other factors which stimulate growth in the grass. These growth factors are believed to be the source of wheatgrass' amazing healing properties. Allowing the grass to grow outside for many months before harvesting means the juice will have reduced amounts of these growth factors.

While indoor grown wheatgrass is in a highly controlled and monitored environment, outdoor grown wheatgrass is subject to nature and the elements . Especially in organic fields this would mean bugs, rodents, bird droppings and/or foreign material getting into the grass! How can an outdoor wheatgrass grower claim otherwise when their grass is grown outdoors for half a year at a time? It is common sense that there would be greater quality control over our indoor grown plants.

Wheatgrass and Mold

Written in 2003
By Carroll J. MacIntosh
Web Site: Evergreenjuices

You might find this interesting. My father is a retired minister and he started growing wheatgrass juice in Canada over 14 years ago. It started out just for ourselves but then we grew to serve many health food stores and restaurants. We also sold the juicers.

There are a couple things that always bothered us about the juice and that is the reactions many people (including us) had after drinking the juice, such as nausea and headaches within seconds after drinking. We were always told that this was "detoxification". Then we had a lady break out in hives all over her body within minutes after drinking.

We were also told that this was just a strong detoxing symptom. Howvever we just couldn't buy the story anymore. Nausea and headaches and especially hives are a reaction to something, not detoxification. There is no other herb or juice concoction that makes you detox within seconds with these strong reactions. What we did trace it to is the mold that grows on the trays. Mold is highly toxic and can cause instant reactions such as headaches and nausea and even hives. The mold comes from the seeds that don't germinate, and that is why some trays are better than others. We tried using hydrogen peroxide and colidial silver and even picking out the ungerminated seeds with tweezers. We also noticed that those with candida got much worse after drinking wheatgrass juice. (Sugar and mold will set it off.)

So after being indoor growers of wheatgrass juice for over seven years, we decided that we couldn't serve any more knowing that all the so called detoxing symptoms were reactions to the mold. We shut the whole thing down.

The following spring my dad was visiting a farmer friend and his winter wheat was coming up. For the fun of it, he cut down a bunch and juiced it. He couldn't believe the difference in the taste!!! Smooth and mild tasting and no sugary/bitter taste. He kept drinking it until he had finished a whole glass. And guess what? NO REACTIONS. We have done a bunch of testing and found that:

  1. In the process of growing winter wheat, the frost kills the mold on the ungerminated seeds, thus no mold.

  2. Also the chlorophyll is much higher because it is in the sun.

  3. The simple sugars in the indoor sprouts cannot mature enough to change into complex carbohydrates, and that is why it is sweet like syrup. Outdoor grass matures just before the jointing stage and creates a smooth grass taste.

  4. It is in the ground for over 200 days compared with 7 - 10 days indoors.

At great expense we now have an organic farm in Ontario, where we plant winter wheat and harvest it in the spring. We have about three weeks per year to do this. We chill it in 1 1/2 minutes to just above freezing and then it is packaged and frozen. Lab reports show little change in the nutrients even after up to three years in the freezer. Freezing doesn't harm it, it is heat that does.

Our work now is trying to convince those who have sworn off wheatgrass juice, because of past reactions, to try it again. A good example of this is Ernest who owns Rainbow Bridge store in Ojai, CA. (805) 646-4017. His reaction to indoor grown wheatgrass was with his throat swelling up to the point where it was hard to breathe. At the Expo West show in Anaheim, I met him and explained why he reacted to it. I convinced him to try our wheatgrass and with a shaking hand he did. He couldn't believe this was wheatgrass juice. It tasted so different. He was waiting for a reaction, that never happened. He is now so sold on our wheatgrass juice, that he confidently sells it to his clients.

My dad met Ann Wigmore once after he shut down the indoor growing system and he asked her about growing outside. Her answer was "I never thought of it before". I am sure you are familiar with Steve Meyerwitz. He totally believes in what we are doing and in the revision of his book put a page in about us. Pine Wheatgrass also is supportive. They understand the importance of winter wheat.

We know that most who grow wheatgrass don't realize that the mold can make their clients sick. The body will usually try to tell us when it doesn't like something, but often people think that they are doing something good by taking it. I have heard so many people tell me that it got to the point where they would bring the wheatgrass up to their mouths, but they just couldn't drink it anymore. But with outdoor grown wheatgrass juice the body absorbs it and people feel good.

Response from Frank Drelich

I have been trying to get the frozen wheatgrass people to acknowledge the fact that the myceal mold from sprouted wheatgrass berries is not harmful. MMI Pathology Laboratories in Georgia, U.S.A., rans tests several years ago on the topical mold ocurring in the trays of wheatgrass that is grown certified and state inspected. (See attached report). Here in Florida this is our 6th year producing. Our product is not at all pathengenic (harmful) to humans. You are what you eat and freeze dried or frozen wheatgrass juice will never replace the power of fresh and since we drink the sprouted grass and not the berry. We grow a premium product. If you have candy bars, barbituates, antibiotics, boooze, cancer, you will purge from fresh wheatgrass every time. With frozen, you will not de-tox that way because we grow a fresh crop every week not every 200 days and freeze it.

MMI Plant Pathology Report

183 Paradise Blvd., Suite 108
Athens, GA 30607
Phone: 706-548-4557
Fax: 706-548-4891

MMI Plant Pathology Report
Name: Drelich Nursery
Address: 19235 Lake Peckett Rd.
Orlando, FL 32820
Phone: 407-568-3545
Host Plant: wheat grass (Agropyron sp.)
MMI Set #: 81311
Date Sample Received: 6/12/98
Report Date: 6/12/98
Pathologist: Dr. Richard Woodward --- Woodward Pathology, Inc.

Please note: Results reported here are based on material submitted to MMI for analysis. All pathology evaluations are subject to the normal limitations of laboratory accuracy. No other warranty is expressed or implied by MMI and its employees or associates. MMI is liable only for the purchase price of the services rendered. Failure to recover a microorganism from a sample does not establish the field or commodity represented by that sample to be free of that organism. MMI and its employees and associates do not recommend use of specific chemicals and only list chemicals (if applicable) that are reported as useful in the literature. Be certain any chemical you use is approved for your crop under the conditions in which you intend to use the chemical. Check with your extension agent and/or chemical supplier for suitability of use under your growing conditions before using any chemical on your crop.

SYMPTOMS: Mycelial growth on media surface

I. FUNGUS TEST RESULTS (1): Probable slime mold (surface mycelial growth)
Rhizopus sp. (surface mycelial growth)
Pythium sp. (slight infection, scattered seedlings)

DIAGNOSIS: A probable slime mold was identified on the media surface of the wheat grass flat. The profuse growth over the entire flat and numerous sporangiophores can be characteristic of slime molds. Slime molds may grow at a very fast rate and cover entire surfaces, but slime molds are not pathogenic. Slime molds use the plants for support but do not penetrate the tissue. The profuse growth observed on the flat was easily removed from the seeds, lower stems, and roots of the plants. No penetration of plant tissue was observed. Slime molds are favored by wet environments and feed on dead organic matter. Rhizopus sp. also was identified in the surface growth. Rhizopus is a ubiquitous fungus that grows profusely in high humidity environments. Rhizopus generally is only a problem in storage rot situations, and the fungus has not been reported to be pathogenic on wheat seedlings.

Pythium sp. was observed in the root tissue of selected seedlings. The Pythium infection appeared slight and was confined to discrete root sections of smaller seedlings. No pathogenic fungi were identified on the majority of the seedlings.

Nobody likes mold.  If you're a homeowner, you have to worry about toxic black mold problems.  Have a certified mold inspector take a look at your house for a possible infestation.  Mold cleanup and removal is absolutely essential if you care about the safety of your family!

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Revised July 17, 2008

Published by City Farmer
Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture