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Green, Green Grass of Home

March 19, 1997|JULIANNE TANTUM

You may have eaten wheat grass sprouts with health-minded friends or even swallowed a murky green glass of nutritious wheat grass juice. Wheat grass is sprouted wheat berries; it looks like long, healthy lawn grass in need of a good mowing. The juicing process requires a special machine, and the resulting juice has a very short shelf life, but the grass itself makes a natural-looking Easter basket or springtime centerpiece.

It's easy to grow in plastic-lined baskets. The baskets are fairly hardy; one year my sister grew a basket and carried it on the plane when she came to visit.

It takes about three days for the sprouts to appear and five more for the grass to reach its ideal height, about 4 inches, so get started soon if you want to have a mini-plot in time for Easter. If you don't have time to sprout your own wheat grass, you can find flats of it at farmers markets and natural food stores. Either way, you'll have groovy grass for hiding Easter treats.

You will need:

2 (2-quart) bags vermiculite (available at nurseries and in the garden section of drugstores)

1 (14x8-inch) basket lined with plastic

10 ounces hard red wheat berries (in bulk section of natural food stores)

Plastic wrap

Spray bottle of water

Pour 2 to 3 inches (about 1 1/2 bags) of vermiculite into the basket. (If the basket is very deep, you can fill the bottom with Styrofoam.) Cover the surface evenly with the wheat berries. Sprinkle a very thin layer of vermiculite over the berries, just to hold the moisture. Pour 3 cups of water over the surface. Cover the surface loosely with plastic wrap and place the basket in a sunny spot.

Twice a day, lift the plastic and gently spray the wheat berries with water. Around the third day, the berries should begin to sprout and push against the plastic. Discard the plastic wrap and spray with water only when the basket feels dry and light, about once a day. (Too much water will cause mold to grow around the berries.)

Once the wheat grass reaches about 4 inches, it should last another week. If using a larger or smaller basket, adjust the amounts of vermiculite, wheat berries and water accordingly.

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