Hallie: Hello and welcome to One to Grow On. A show where we dig into questions about agriculture and try to understand how food production impacts us and our world. My name is Hallie Casey and I studied and currently work in agriculture.
Chris: I’m Chris Casey, Hallie’s dad. Each episode we pick an area of agriculture or food production to discuss and this week it’s superfoods number five.
Chris: Okay, but will we be able to use the confirming it’s a superfood song. Let’s find out.
Hallie: All right. Superfoods. I am so excited to do another superfood episode today.
Chris: Looking at this list, there is definitely one food on here that I enjoy eating and I really hope it’s a superfood.
Hallie: Oh, okay.
Chris: I bet it’s probably not, but I hope it is.
Hallie: We’ll find out. Should we kick off with our first food?
Chris: Let’s kick off with our first food, which is wheatgrass.
Hallie: What do you know about wheatgrass?
Chris: Well, I know it’s a grass.
Chris: I know it has the word wheat in it, but I don’t know if it’s actually wheat. I guess I assume that maybe it’s wheat. I don’t know. Is it part of wheat? Who could tell me? I bet you could tell me, and I know it’s an expensive add on in smoothie joints.
Hallie: Yes, it is in smoothies sometimes.
Chris: It’s green.
Hallie: You are not wrong about that.
Chris: All right.
Hallie: Wheatgrass is the grass of wheat. It is the leaves of Triticum aestivum, which is wheat.
Chris: Wait a minute. It’s the leaves? I thought it was the stocks.
Hallie: It’s the leaves.
Chris: Wow. Okay, so I’ve already learned something new.
Hallie: Wheatgrass, you can get it fresh, which is often what you see at smoothie joints. You can also get it freeze dried, which is often also incorporated into drinks as well. Wheatgrass was actually made popular by a woman named Ann Wigmore who apparently lived in Boston, was originally from Lithuania and she was one of the first folks according to this book that I skimmed about her to popularize the idea of raw foods in US diets, which was around the 1940s. Raw food is generally not considered a negative thing in diet. It’s good to eat raw fruits and vegetables, but this lady, Miss Wigmore also promoted a lot of other fake and harmful claims that were just fake pseudoscience. She claimed she had a cure for diabetes and she claimed she had a cure for all these things that it was just lies and it was really harmful. Not a fan of her.
Big fan of raw food. Wheatgrass falls into the category of sprouts similar to bean sprouts and stuff like that.
Chris: Like alfalfa sprouts?
Hallie: Yeah, similar to alfalfa sprouts. Alfalfa sprouts and bean sprouts are both leguminous sprouts that are dicotyledonous and these wheatgrass sprouts are monocotyledonous, so the grasses that you’re eating are basically the little embryos that have just germinated from the seeds of the wheat, but they’re very, very young. We talked about micro greens and in that episode we talked about sprouts and how there are some food safety concerns around sprouts and micro greens. You can have some food safety concerns around the wheatgrass as well as bean sprouts and alfalfa sprouts because they’re so young and tender that they can have food safety issues around fungus. That can be an issue.
Chris: Oh wow.
Hallie: Yeah, we talked about this. Particularly with bean sprouts there have been some high profile cases of food borne illness. It’s a concern. If you have these young sprouts, it can happen.
Chris: Okay. Real quick, cotyledon is a word which you have defined on the show before and it means something.
Chris: Now there’re these sprouts with one or two of them.
Hallie: Inside of a seed you have different parts. Part of that is the embryo and the cotyledon. Basically, once the little plant pops up from inside of the seed, you get one or two little leaf looking guys that don’t look like the rest of the leaves on the plant. That’s because they were actually inside of the seed and are part of the seed embryo that have kind of pushed out and are starting to grow. If you have a grass, it only has one of these leaf guys and it’s called monocotyledonous and then if you have two, which is pretty much the rest of plants they’re called dicotyledonous.
Chris: Cool. All right. Moving on.
Hallie: Around wheatgrass, there are a lot of claims similar to once we’ve heard on other superfoods, quote unquote, that it’s anticarcinogenic, anti-anemia, that it can clear your skin, that it helps with joint pain. There’s not a lot of studies, however, around wheatgrass, so we don’t have a lot of info.
Chris: All the like anticancer, anti whatever. Yeah, that sounds like a whole lot of bull sprouts.
Hallie: Oh my God. Generally, wheatgrass has good nutritional benefits as a leafy green. It can be dangerous to folks with celiac disease or who are allergic to grass or wheat products because it is wheat, but it’s leaves. Leaves are good for us generally.
Chris: All right. Eat your leaves, eat a salad, and eat some wheatgrass. It’s good for you. It’s fine.
Hallie: That’s fine. Yeah, go for it. Get some nutrients.
Chris: But it sounds like we’re not going to put a cape on this one.
Hallie: No, I don’t think so. Well, there’s not a lot of science, so who knows.
We might come back in 10 years and there might be some great science showing some miraculous things that wheatgrass does. At this point, there is absolutely no evidence of that.
Chris: All right. Sounds good.
Hallie: You ready for the next food?
Chris: I am so ready for the next food.
Hallie: It is avocado.
Chris: Give me some guacamole, please and let it cure my [inaudible].
Hallie: We’re talking of course about the wonderful avocado, which is Persea Americana in the Lauraceae family, which is the Laurel trees. Love that. What do you know?
Chris: Oh, well I just looked at the show prep notes and I see that it’s a berry, which is awesome because after all, what even is a berry as we’re asked so many times?
Hallie: Something that’s very specific.
Chris: Yeah, it’s a berry. I don’t know. It’s good on sandwiches. It’s good on toast. It’s good mixed with jalapeno and cilantro. Maybe a little mayo and some salt and pepper and some lime juice and put on a tortilla or on a chip or whatever and it’s good.
Chris: That’s what I know about avocados.
Hallie: It is good. True. The word avocado actually comes from an indigenous language the Nahuatl language, which is an indigenous people from Mexico and Central America. The word is Ahuacatl and then that got translated into Spanish, which originally is a fairly anatomical description of a human body part that the avocado resembles somewhat.
Chris: Oh, so people in native Mexico were perpetually 14 also.
Hallie: You see it and you say it. Keep it simple. Another English name for it is the alligator pear, which is also fairly literal and I like.
Chris: Oh, I like that because I’m sure alligators love pears too.
Hallie: Yeah, I’m sure the carnivorous reptile, the alligator loves the pear. Avocados are native to Mexico and Central America. They’re enjoyed widely around the world though on account of how delicious they are.
Chris: They are. They’re grown pretty widely in California, are they not?
Hallie: Yes, there are a lot of avocados grown in California. The most common cultivar of the avocado is the Hass avocado. Those are probably the ones you’re familiar with that are nice and big. Avocados are climacteric which is similar to bananas where for a banana you can buy it when it’s green before it has ripened and it can ripen off of the plant and it’s ready to go as opposed to something like a melon. A grape is non-climacteric. If you harvest those before they are ripened, they just stop maturing and they will not get up to maturity.
Chris: Got it. There are people who actually like green bananas and they are just wrong.
Hallie: Hey, don’t knock it. A green banana is lovely and starchy.
Chris: Okay. If you say so.
Hallie: We don’t need to yuck a yum. People like what they like.
Chris: I think there are just certain truths in the world.
Hallie: Avocados are dichogamous, which is such a fun plant word. Plants have great words. Basically, this means that one plant has both male and female flowers, but the different flower sexes are separated throughout time to try and facilitate cross pollination.
Chris: Kind of like Doctor Who?
Hallie: Yeah, kind of like Doctor Who except for they’re both aging forward in time, not backwards in time.
Chris: Got it. I’m glad you said that word because I would have said dichogamous, which just sounds kind of weird but dichogamous makes sense.
Hallie: Yeah, dichogamous. Basically it means that either the male or female flower blooms first and then a week or two weeks later, the other one blooms. This is basically just so that different plants can get on with other plants so that you have more robust mixing of DNA in reproduction, which is fine. Except for that it’s a really annoying thing for breeders because if you want to cross pollinate something that’s blooming at the same time, it’s on the same schedule, you have to go and collect pollen and then artificially pollinate it two weeks later.
It’s just a whole thing. It’s very annoying.
Chris: You never know if either the male or the female is going to be the late bloomer.
Hallie: What? Is this a joke?
Chris: The late bloomer.
Hallie: Is it a joke?
Chris: Late bloomer.
Hallie: I’m assuming this is a joke.
Hallie: Flowers bloom dad. Also you can’t have flowers that are just late bloomers.
Chris: But one of them comes later than the other one. Isn’t that what you’re saying?
Hallie: Yeah, but it comes in order. It’s not like you’re guessing every year. I’m just taking your joke very literally.
Chris: Okay. One of them happens first and the other one happens later.
Hallie: Yeah, but you do know which one’s going to be the late bloomer. You can anticipate it is what I’m saying. Anyway.
Chris: Moving on.
Hallie: You can propagate avocados by seed. Traditionally, they’re propagated asexually. Most often grafted just because it takes a really long time and if you’re growing a fruit tree by seed, then you’re going to have changes in the phenotype. If you want to propagate an avocado by seed, dad, do you know how you do this?
Chris: You take out the seed and you plant it in the ground.
Hallie: No, you take out the seed, you rinse it off in the sink and you poke some toothpicks in it and then you put it over a glass of water. Have you ever seen this happen? It’s like a science project that a lot of kids do.
Chris: Maybe. You kind of make it like a little sea urchin. Oh, is this one of the things where it grows out and then it grows down into the thing and then that becomes a plant or something?
Hallie: That’s how seeds generally operate. It grows out of the seed and then down and then becomes a plant.
Chris: Well, I’m thinking of the trees where the leaves sort of go down into the ground and then become roots.
Hallie: Oh, no. Basically, the propagation method, whether you’re doing it at home, in a science class or you’re breeding from seed is pretty much the same where you take out the pit of the avocado, like the seed and you rinse off the outside and then you stick toothpicks in it so that it’s kind of suspended just in or over water like a glass of water. Then the radical pops out of the seed coat and goes down into the water. That’s how you propagate from seed.
Chris: It’s wild.
Hallie: Yeah, it’s very cool. That’s why a lot of science classes do it in like middle school or whenever because the seed is so big and it puts out this enormous radical, so it’s a very visual thing for kids to see and it’s just also super fun.
Chris: It sounds to me like avocado breeding is the pits. That’s it.
Hallie: That was really, really good. I liked that.
Chris: It was all right.
Hallie: If you would like to grow your own avocado tree from seed, that’s how you do it. It will take a long time though because on account of how long trees take to get big.
Chris: Then at some point once it’s been growing in the glass, you just transfer it to a pod or the ground or something.
Hallie: Yeah, pretty much. The leaves of the avocado tree can actually also be used in cooking as like a little spice.
Chris: What? I have no idea.
Hallie: It’s closely related to the bay laurel, so it makes sense.
Chris: Oh, okay. Even more praise for the avocado.
Chris: Sounds like we’re going to put a cape on it. Maybe.
Hallie: We’ll see. The claims around the avocado, it stimulates the immune system. It helps with your hair health. Hair can’t be healthy because skin cells are dead. I don’t need to get into that. It can stimulate the immune system. It helps with hair healthiness. Prevents cataracts, maintains regularity.
Chris: Whenever I hear stimulate the immune system, that’s when my bull sprouts meter goes off.
Hallie: All in all, there’s not a ton of evidence that it’s doing any of these things. It is however, very high in fat.
Chris: How high?
Hallie: 75% fat.
Chris: To me that’s a wild level like when I was wowed that quinoa was 27% protein or something ridiculous like that.
Hallie: Yeah, it’s something like that.
Chris: Or 27 grams of protein. I don’t know. It was a high amount of protein for a little old plant and now we’ve got a plant that has a high amount of fat and I’m like, wow.
Hallie: It is 75% fat. It’s also very high in fiber and has a good amount of potassium.
Chris: Well, potassium is important.
Hallie: It is. As berries go and fruits in general, this is pretty uncommon. Olives are also a fruit that’s pretty high in fat, but we don’t see a lot of these lovely, good fatty, oily fruits out there that we eat. Avocado oil has a pretty high heat point, so it’s really good for cooking. Generally, people often don’t lack oil/fat in their diet, but as a food, I think it’s pretty cool. I wouldn’t probably put a cape on it because you can get good fats from a lot of places. It’s not super unique as these things go. It is extremely delicious and I am a huge fan.
Chris: Well as much as I would like for my guacamole to be a superfood, I guess I’ll just have to live with the facts. Again, it’s a decent food, but nothing super special about it except it’s deliciousness.
Hallie: Which is extreme. It’s pretty extreme.
Chris: Well, you know what happens to tortilla chips when you put them in a good thick guacamole is they break.
Hallie: Hey, let’s go on a break.
Chris: That’s what we’re about to do right now.
Hallie: Dad did you know that we had a Facebook group?
Chris: I do because I posted some stuff there just last week and commented on another post and it’s a lot of fun.
Hallie: Did you know that we also have a Discord group?
Chris: I do because that too is a place where I interact with listeners much like yourself and we talk about everything and we talk about plant problems and we talk about plant jokes and all kinds of stuff.
Hallie: Right now, my favorite part of the Discord is the wild flowers channel where I post pictures of the coolest flowers I see on my evening walks after work.
Chris: That’s only going to last for what? Another couple of weeks? I don’t know. How long do you think we’ll have wild flowers? Not much longer. Go and see some of those pictures people.
Hallie: It was a warm winter. The flowers came out early in this year.
Chris: They did indeed.
Hallie: If you’d like to come give us a shout, hang around, say hi, you can find the One to Grow On Facebook group at onetogrowonpod.com/group or by searching, One to Grow On on Facebook and you can find the One to Grow On Discord group at onetogrowonpod.com/discord. That’s onetogrowonpod.com/Facebook and onetogrowonpod.com/discord.
Chris: Thank you very much to our starfruit patrons, Lindsay, Vikram, Mama Casey, Patrick and Shianne.
Hallie: Thank you guys so much. Your support means so much to us and we really appreciate it.
Chris: Well, I’m about out of guac. I don’t know about you. I’m ready to get back to the episode.
Hallie: Dad, do you have a nature of fact for us today?
Chris: I do have a nature fact for us. Our next superfood candidate is bee pollen.
Chris: Bee pollen comes from bees as the name suggests.
Hallie: Correct again.
Chris: In the DC universe, there was a superhero who was a member of the Teen Titans in the early seventies called Bumblebee and she was DC comics’ first black female superhero.
Hallie: Oh, that’s cool. Is that the one that’s married to Paul Rudd in the movies?
Hallie: Oh, that’s Marvel.
Chris: Totally different universe. Listener, on Easter we were having a discussion.
Hallie: Oh my gosh, I cannot believe you’re bringing this up on the podcast right now.
Chris: If me and Mama Casey had finished our Millennium Falcon. Me and Mama Casey have been working on a Lego Enterprise, not Millennium Falcon. Starship Enterprise, completely different universe. Once again, here we are completely different universe, getting our universes crossed.
Hallie: Oh my God. Listen, we all have our different talents, different skill sets. This is [inaudible].
Chris: Okay. I don’t know. I think it’s something you were pretty good at once in your life.
Hallie: The plants have overrun my mind. It’s only plants up there.
Chris: That’s true. It’s all vegetable matter.
Hallie: Are you ready for some bee pollen?
Chris: Yeah, but I can’t believe you didn’t react to that sick pan.
Hallie: Was it a joke on gray matter? It would have been funny if you said it’s all organic matter. See there you get a soil joke a little bit too.
Chris: Oh, I guess. Now I know what plant people think is funny and they will burn. Oh well, okay. Yes, bee pollen. Give us the low down on the bee pollen, which is, all that comes from bees.
Hallie: Yes, what else do you know about bee pollen generally?
Chris: I said it’s pollen that comes from bees kind of as a joke, but obviously the pollen comes from plants and then the bees fly around and they get the pollen on their little legs and mix it with other plants or something, correct?
Hallie: Yes, what do you know about how it is marketed/consumed?
Hallie: We’re doing a superfood episode.
Chris: It has never really been on my radar. Maybe now that I think about it, it’s something I’ve seen at a smoothie place, which gives me low hopes for its superfood status, but I don’t really know that much about it. Wait. Let me talk to you this.
If it’s just plant pollen then why does it matter if it comes from bees or not, I guess is kind of where my head is at right now?
Hallie: It’s a very good question. Bee pollen, I guess you could put it in smoothies. Usually, I think you put it over like yogurt or a granola or something like that. I think it’s crunchy. I’ve honestly never eaten it. Pollen itself is a gametophyte, which as you mentioned comes from plants. The bee pollen is like a dusty little pellet of field gathered like you mentioned. Flower pollen that bees go and get pollen has a lot of nitrogen and this pollen serves as the bee’s primary source of protein whereas honey serves as the hives source of sugar.
Chris: I had no idea pollen was a source of protein for bees. That’s awesome.
Hallie: It is as you mentioned gathered as opposed to something like bees wax, which is also a byproduct of bees. But bees wax is actually secreted by the bees themselves. They just go and pick up and collect into pellet shapes. I could not find a lot of info about the agricultural significance of this. I looked all over the place to find how to start farming bee pollen. There was very little information, so I think it’s pretty niche. It’s like a specialty crop that not a lot of people are growing right now. Business Insider actually in an article about bee pollen credited the popularity of it as a product to a Victoria Beckham tweet.
Chris: Oh bull sprouts. I’m just going to start using that for everything. Can I make an anti-claim?
Hallie: Sure. Is it an anti-Victoria Beckham because if so, I will not hear it?
Chris: No, it’s just an anti-claim. It’s speculation on my part to be sure. But I bet the bees don’t even really come into the mix. I bet they just get some pollen from some plants that the bees probably would’ve liked just fine and say, “Hey, look. Bee pollen.”
Hallie: Pretty much. This is just a dusty little ball of pollen and there’s not bee gunk on there or anything. It’s just pollen, so it’s just plant stuff. The claims around pollen are, again, similar to what we’ve heard before, it protects from cancer, it boosts liver function, it’s anti-inflammatory, it helps with hot flashes, helps with allergies, which we hear with honey. However, bee pollen is field gathered, right? The bees are just doing their own thing. The actual makeup of the pollen itself can vary from hive to hive. It can vary from bee to bee. It can vary from hour to hour on the same bee within the same hive because the bees are just going about their business and so you can have all kinds of stuff up in there in terms of pollen. There’s not really any clear evidence that it can treat or prevent any ailment because it’s harvested by bees. There are a lot of variables that are extremely difficult to control because you know the bees go where the bees go, so it can be contaminated and it can be dangerous if you have serious allergies because the bee goes where the bee goes.
Chris: You can’t control the bee.
Hallie: Perhaps one day we can control the bee, but should we control the bee?
Chris: That’s a good question, but if we could, maybe we could save them from extinction because of our modern cultures and such things.
Hallie: Who knows?
Chris: I don’t know.
Hallie: Probably it wise, if I have learned anything from movies, it’s not a good idea.
Chris: That’s probably true. That probably would lead to a bee revolt and then we’d all be in real trouble.
Hallie: Honestly, the bees can rule me.
Chris: Now we’re just getting political.
Hallie: Is it political to say the bees can rule me?
Chris: Yes, because it implies that you’re not happy with the current administration.
Hallie: I’m not happy with the current humanity.
Chris: Fair enough. All right, so in bee pollen, maybe it’s fine, but nothing special.
Hallie: Yeah, nothing special. There’s not a lot of nutrition associated with it. It is some I think crunchy guys. If you are looking for crunchy guys, this seems to be an option, but it doesn’t really seem like they have a lot to bring to the table according to current science.
Chris: That’s kind of a bummer. But bees make honey and pollinate our plants so it’s not their fault.
Hallie: More like a buzzer.
Chris: Nice one.
Hallie: Thank you. Should we talk about spelt?
Chris: Let’s talk about spelt.
Hallie: The scientific name for spelt is Triticum spelta. It’s in the same genus as wheat. Another common name for spelt is actually dinkel wheat.
Chris: That sounds like a derogatory term for wheat. No, it’s just some dinkel wheat.
Hallie: Interestingly in Greek mythology, spelt was actually given by Demeter to humans and humans have been eating spelt for thousands of years. This is something we have been eating for a long time.
Chris: Nice. Thanks Demeter. I know on the Spirits Podcast produced by Catherine was talking about Demeter as one of her favorite goddesses.
Hallie: Demeter is great. Demeter is extremely good and for more information on how great Demeter is, you can find our episode where we guested on the Spirits Podcast and gushed about Demeter for like 25 minutes.
Chris: All right.
Hallie: Spelt has been eaten in the US for a long time, but it got replaced by wheat just because wheat is easier to grow and a little bit more delicious. However, the biodynamic/organic farming movement of the 1970s revived the popularity of spelt because it requires less added soil nutrition than wheat.
Chris: Oh, it’s easier to grow.
Hallie: Yeah, it can be easier to grow. It’s arguably less delicious. I don’t want to drag spelt here. I’m not that much of a fan, but it can be a bit hardier and it can just stand up to a bit more. Today, we eat some spelts in America. It’s much more popular in Germany than most other places. It’s more in the cuisine in Germany, but people eat it in different places, in small amounts. It’s not terribly common. We do also use it for a feed grain for the cows and horses and stuff like that.
Chris: It’s popular in Germany. It’s coming back here so maybe for just a time here, we miss spelt. I miss spelt.
Hallie: No, I got it dad. I did get the joke.
Chris: All right. I’m glad.
Hallie: The claims around spelt are that it lowers the risk of stroke. It lowers the risk of heart attack. It can help with diabetes and cancer. There’s not really a lot of evidence here. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’re going to have any cape worthy foods in this episode. Sorry to bum you guys out. It is high in protein, has some good fiber, and has some good phosphorus. It has gluten, so it’s not great if you are trying to avoid gluten, but generally whole grains are good for you. This is kind of similar to a whole grain oat or a whole grain wheat or something like that. It’s good to have whole grains.
Chris: If you want some spelt, eat some spelt, it’ll be good for you, but don’t expect all the big stuff.
Hallie: Don’t expect some big stuff. Do eat avocados on account of how delicious they are. Perhaps enjoy you some wheatgrass or other small little friends. Have a lovely afternoon perhaps including some avocados.
Chris: Have a lovely afternoon. Thanks for listening to this episode of One to Grow On.
Hallie: This show is hosted by me, Hallie Casey and Chris Casey.
Chris: It is produced by Catherine Arjet and Hallie Casey.
Hallie: Our music is Something Elated by Broke For Free.
Chris: Connect with us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook at One to Grow On Pod.
Hallie: You can find all of our episodes as well as more information about the show and the team on our website onetogrowonpod.com.
Chris: Join our community and learn more about each episode at patreon.com/onetogrowonpod. There you can get access to audio extras, fascinating follow-ups and even custom art created just for you.
Hallie: If you like the show, please share it with your friends. Sharing is the best way to help us reach more ears.
Chris: Be sure to check out the next episode in two weeks.
Hallie: But until then, keep on growing.
Chris: Bye everybody.