David Fromhold, owner of an indoor vertical farm called Wheatgrass Depot, is not surprisingly an evangelist of wheatgrass juice, but even he says no one drinks the stuff for the flavor. “People who say they love the taste of wheatgrass juice will probably lie about other things too.” A shot of it, he avers, is the equivalent of eating two-and-a-half pounds of vegetables. Some people (including him) claim it cures cancer. Bright green and murky, it’s the tongue-shriveling taste equivalent of staring directly at the sun. Fromhold advises squirting a wedge of lemon into a dose of it, which–a measure of how potent this stuff is–actually tones down the brightness a notch or two.
He says the main thing is to get it fresh. “Because our product is so perishable, we developed a model to get it to the customer within twenty-four hours of harvest.” That’s anywhere in the state, but if you live in Ann Arbor, you can also order online and pick it up right where it’s grown, in a warehouse on Phoenix Dr.
The Wheatgrass Depot website explains how to do that. Fromhold eventually hopes to herd his clientele into regular subscriptions, so he can better match his supply with his demand. At the moment, though, he’s taking about any order he can get–place the order online and pick it up as soon as the next day. A pound of freshly cut grass, which will supply ten to twelve ounces of drinkable sunshine, costs $14 (he takes orders for as little as a half-pound). “At Whole Foods and places like that, it’s about thirty dollars a pound,” he says. Moreover, he claims that the wheatgrass and wheatgrass shots sold in other places aren’t as fresh or as cleanly sourced; his grass is squeaky clean and organic, and lab-tested for salmonella and E. coli (mandated by the Department of Agriculture, though he claims “almost nobody does” it). Fromhold adds that he will not re-harvest–a patch of grass loses a high percentage of its nutrients the second time around. “You can always tell if it’s re-harvested–just check to see if the blades are flat on both sides.” He also grows and sells pea greens and sunflower shoots for the same price, “but wheatgrass is really the magic.”
His wheatgrass, pea greens, and sunflower shoots are sold only in raw form. The pea and sunflower can be eaten plain or juiced in a Vitamix or blender, but wheatgrass has a protocol all its own. “You have to juice it, and you do need a masticating juicer” that grinds and extracts the juice. “A blender or a Vitamix will just chop it up in small pieces.” His website offers an entry-level masticating juicer for $50.
Fromhold, originally from Midland, started his wheatgrass business in Florida but came back to Michigan when his father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. His father still lives in Midland, but Fromhold says, “Midland would never sustain this business.”
Orders placed online can also be picked up at a few other locations in town, like Salads UP and Ray’s Red Hots, but Fromhold cautions that those locations are for pickup only–“they’re not there to answer questions.” If you want to learn or talk about wheatgrass, arrange your pickup at Phoenix Dr. and talk to Fromhold himself.
Wheatgrass Depot, 858 Phoenix Dr., 258-7943. Pickup hours Tues.-Fri. 6-9 p.m. (or by appt.). wheatgrassdepot.com