By Becky Roozen Published Mar 14, 2005 at 5:25 AM

{image1} In bars all over the city, it's the patrons who are getting juiced, slamming shots of Jack, vodka and other potent concoctions. But in the lesser-known juice bars all across the country, including Milwaukee, it's wheatgrass that's being juiced. And although it's sometimes just as grim to choke down as the tequila, shots of this green stuff will save your health instead of kill it.

Some claim it to be the nectar of rejuvenation, the plasma of youth and the blood of all life. But what the heck is it?

By definition, it's a narrow-leaved green herbage: grown as lawns; used as pasture for grazing animals; cut and dried as hay. But when grown in nutrient-rich soil, cut at the perfect time, juiced and taken straight down the hatch, "It's a magic potion," says Tim Paegelow, owner and grower of Hawkhaven Greenhouse International in Wautoma.

This sunlight transfusion supplies your body's cells with the elements that are missing: enzymes, vitamins, hormones and nucleic acids. Over the years it's been proven to cleanse the lymph system, build the blood, restore balance in the body, remove toxic metals from the cells, nourish the liver and kidneys, restore vitality, and the list goes on.

OK, if this stuff is so wonderful, why isn't everyone swigging shots of wheatgrass. Reason No. 1: many in Milwaukee, minus the regulars at Outpost and other organic gurus, don't even know it exists. I didn't either until about nine months ago when my dad -- he lives in southern California where juicing the green stuff is pretty common -- told me he started drinking wheatgrass and that it gave him the energy of a 5-year-old and helped him lose more weight. I said, "That's great, but wheat what?"

I was wary of this magical wheatgrass, so I read "The Wheatgrass Book" by Ann Wigmore, one of the first to utilize this grass for medicinal and health reasons. After learning the facts, I was easily hooked and set out to find wheatgrass in Milwaukee. I was happy to find it at the Outpost juice bar, but I wasn't too thrilled that it cost $2.50 for a one-ounce shot, the recommended daily dose. Reason No. 2 why so many Milwaukeeans are missing out.

After doing a little research to find a less expensive alternative, I found a guy who grows some of the best wheatgrass -- that's about half the price -- right here in Wisconsin and has been since 1984. And even better, he ships it out of his house in Whitefish Bay!

Paegelow's product is called Verdegrass (green grass) -- after he juices the wheatgrass, he freezes it in single-serving two-ounce containers. Some say the freezing process destroys the effects of live enzymes, but he disagrees.

"Enzymes are an important asset," says Paegelow. "What the freezing does is it slows down the action of the enzymes themselves, so they do not break down the product as fast." But you need to drink it as soon as it thaws, he adds.

And to Paegelow, growing wheatgrass is a process he values, respecting and working with nature.

"I talked to many customers of mine that used to be on the board of co-ops in Minnesota. The trays and the soil are thrown away," Paegelow says. "I would never do that with my soil.

"I'm working in harmony with nature," he adds. "We don't use herbicides or anything like that. It's a philosophy of working with Mother Nature, that's why when I have my specific mix, it's putting nutrients back in the soil in trace mineral amounts."

And Paegelow's evident concern for the environment parallels his dedication and pride in Verdegrass. "It has nice cleansing properties, a broad spectrum of nutrients and works with your diet," he says. "For one dosage of chlorophyll, you'd be having to eat two huge bundles of broccoli a day, including the stalk."

Not many people voluntarily chomp on broccoli stalks on a daily basis, if ever, but why don't more Milwaukeeans give wheatgrass a try?

"The word is slowly but surely spreading, but we still have some people that are very wary," says Paegelow. "We're not getting the nutrients out of our food, and the thing is, we're still living in the state of Wisconsin where bratwurst and cheese and mainstream agriculture rule, we really need to change the views on things."

To learn more about wheatgrass in general, I suggest reading Ann Wigmore's "The Wheatgrass Book." To locally order Verdegrass, go to Paegelow's Hawkhaven Greenhouse Web site at And for a first-timers fix, stop by your nearest Outpost.