A Lesson in Localism

A little lesson about freshness:

I asked my man for a wheatgrass juicer for Christmas this year, which he dutifully bought for me. I immediately went out to my local produce market and bought a bag of wheatberries, envisioning a harvest within a couple of days.

Well, I waited and waited and waited and after a couple of weeks I had wheatgrass but it was scraggly and sparse and just not at all what I see at my local juice bar. It was pathetic and unusable.

A few weeks ago my friend Joshua, who is a natural foods chef, came over to do sort of a food consultation. He was teaching me to make quinoa and when I pulled my box of Trader Joe’s quinoa out of the cupboard he said, “You know, you really should buy everything in bulk. Not only is there less waste, but everything sold in bulk is fresher and more nutritious than stuff that has been sitting around in a box for God knows how long.”

Whatever, Joshua.

Earlier this week when our third attempt at growing wheatgrass failed we nearly threw in the towel completely. But then I remembered what Joshua said and on a lark I trotted down to the health food store and bought a bag of wheatberries from the bulk bin.

Within a day they looked like this, with nearly every kernel germinated:

Later that same day, they looked like this:

Today, they look like this:

OK, fine, Joshua, you were right. And it does make sense. If our food is traveling huge distances to get to us — Byron remembers that the first batch of wheatberries we bought were from Greece — it is losing the life inside of it as time passes. I wouldn’t buy fruit from Greece for precisely this reason, but for some reason I never thought about it when it came to beans and grains, which we buy a lot of.

Not only was there no box or bag to dispose of (I can bring the bag back and reuse it next time I buy wheat berries) and no biofuels required to ship it but the quality is clearly superior. It makes sense; a store is only going to carry in bulk those items that it sells a lot of and which move quickly. Lord knows how long that bag of wheatberries was in the produce market before I picked it up.

This wheatgrass is a different animal completely that the first batch, lush and healthy and a shade of green that puts Emerald City to shame. It even creates its own dew, right there in my laundry room.

This is a lesson in localism that hadn’t occurred to me before. Isn’t it fun to learn something new?

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4 Responses to “A Lesson in Localism”

  1. molly says:

    what a great lesson. i’m inspired to plant wheat berries now. how can I reach Joshua for my own food consultation? he sounds very interesting :)

  2. Heather says:

    He works for a company called Hands on Gourmet. This is the company’s website: http://www.handsongourmet.com/

  3. After seeing the pictures of your wheatberries growing I’m inspired to head out and get some right away. The green colour is so vibrant, I can only imagine the nutrient content. The thing that has kept me from buying bulk is that the bin contents are exposed to germs from peoples hands and whatever is floating around in the air. Could you or Joshua give some insight on this to please.~ Many thanks, Heather

  4. Heather says:

    Hi Heather:

    My health food store uses tall enclosed bins with levers, not scoops. You put your bag underneath the bin, pull the handle and the seeds (or beans or rice or whatever) fall into your bag. No hands touch the food except, I would assume, when the bin is being filled. Look for a store with this system if you are worried about germs.

    As for me, I don’t really worry about getting sick from bulk bins. I think all food is touched by many hands in one way or another (fruit is picked, then sorted, then packed, then shipped… you get the drift.) Besides, most items you buy in bulk will be cooked anyway and the heat from the cooking process will kill any germs. If you are really nervous about it, stick to things that will be cooked and avoid buying things like dried fruits, nuts and candies in bulk. (Oh, but those dark chocolate covered almonds they always have in the bulk bins are SO good!)

    As far as wheatgrass goes, I think the benefits outweigh any potential for getting sick from people touching the wheat berries. Thanks for reading! Hope this helps. ~Heather

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