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Goddess of Green Trades Alcohol for 'Rejuvelac'
By Kathryn Guta
It's a bar. And like any other bar there are shots and chasers, happy hours and appetizers. Customers come to imbibe the spirits and to chat with friends after a long day's work.
The difference is what's in the glasses. There are no Bloody Marys or Tom Collins here. Rather, bar patrons are drinking shots of chlorophyll-laden wheat grass juice and chasers of honey-flavored "Rejuvelac," a drink made from fermented wheat berries.
The "bartender" is Eva Moen, a woman who has wrestled with alcoholism most of her life. In fact, when Moen started her Wheat Grass Farm and Depot six years ago -- in her sunny back yard on 15th Street near Guerrero -- she hoped the wheat grass she was selling would cure her addiction. She had tried to quit drinking for years, but at age 53, she still found herself hiding half-empty bottles of scotch around the house.
A daily belt of wheat grass juice helped some. But it wasn't until she discovered Rejuvelac, a beverage developed in the 1980s by health food guru Ann Wigmore, that she saw her cravings for alcohol completely disappear. Now after three years on the soft stuff, she's convinced it's saved her life.
"Let's make Rejuvelac the 7-Up of the future!" she says with the zeal of someone who has been raised from the dead.
Moen is a curious mix of young and old. Her Scandinavian blond hair makes her look like a teenager. Her blue eyes sparkle with mischievous mirth. Yet her face reveals hard times. It is a road map of lines. She has slight tremors that skate across her brow like mini-earthquakes. Her fingers are darkly stained with soil as if someone has just taken her fingerprints. Her hands shake, too.
"It's Parkinson's," she says, her lilting voice like a character in an Bergman film.
Moen's earliest memory is as an 18-month-old toddler reaching for a bottle of cough medicine. She vividly recalls the green and yellow label on the bottle near the crib. After she drank the entire contents, she was rushed to the hospital for treatment of acute alcohol poisoning. It's easy to see why she feels she was "born to be an alcoholic."
At age 9, Moen drank the wine her father brewed in their Oslo cellar winery. Blackouts began at age 16. She came to America at 24 and went to work as an au pair for a family in Boston where both parents were alcoholics. Her life became a series of addictive relationships. Her monthly binges made it hard to keep a job, and what little money she had was drained away in booze.
Moen tried to stop countless times. She went to Alcoholics Anonymous. She admitted herself to hospitals. She tried outpatient programs. Paradoxically, all the talk about quitting drinking only made her want to drink more. "In detox, it was like being on vacation," she says. "I got to play cards all night and was made President of Donuts at the [now defunct] Tom Smith Program!"
When she left the hospital, she tried to keep busy -- knitting, crocheting, cleaning the house. But sooner or later she fell off the wagon. At one point, she found herself consuming over a quart of vodka a day.
When she launched the wheat grass farm in 1993, Moen was still drinking heavily. So to flush out her system, she started downing 10 to 20 ounces of wheat grass juice a day -- a really high dose (beginners should try no more than one or two tablespoons a day!).
"Wheat grass gives you complete nutrition," she maintains, adding that it's filled with A, C, and B-complex vitamins, as well as calcium, iron, magnesium, and other minerals.
In her backyard farm, Moen has built shelves for stacking the grass as it grows. "The grass is on a mission to become wheat, like what we make bread out of," she explains as she spreads wheat berries over a tray of organic soil. "The grass is cut when it's six to eight inches high, before it yellows into a wheat plant. We cut it because we want the chlorophyll -- the blood of the plant."
According to her handouts, the wheat grass juice is about 70 percent chlorophyll, a substance that "enters red blood cells quickly...where it's said to heal tissues, purify the liver, improve blood sugar, and generally help flush out ingested toxins from within the body."
Back inside the bar, the cut grass is juiced into shots of foaming green liquid that look like Mississippi swamp water and taste...well, grassy.
In 1994, after a year of ingesting the juice, Moen felt better. Still, it was hard to stay sober for longer than a month or two. Then she came upon another wheat drink -- Rejuvelac -- during a visit to a health spa.
Rejuvelac -- as developed by nutritionist Wigmore -- is made not from wheat grass, but from sprouted wheat berries left to ferment for anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days (see sidebar). Moen's recipe is sweetened with honey and then blended with lemons, beets, ginger, anise, or vanilla -- to make it taste more like fruit punch.
Once she started adding Rejuvelac to her daily regimen, Moen found herself desiring it more and more. She'd gulp down three to four quarts a day. Gradually, she lost her craving for alcohol.
Her last binge was in October of '94. "I kept waiting for the next binge to happen, but it never came," she says. "Now I don't even think about it. It's not one day at a time. It's over.
"Rejuvelac cured me of alcoholism," she states emphatically.
What's her theory? The Rejuvelac replaces valuable nutrients, she says. "Alcohol eats up B vitamins, and Rejuvelac has hundreds of B vitamins, plus enzymes to help with digestion."
Moen says Rejuvelac can help with weight loss, too. "Rejuvelac took away my desire for alcohol, and solved my weight problem at the same time. The fat started to fall off in all the right places."
When asked about the possible alcohol content of Rejuvelac -- after all, it is a fermented grain product -- Moen admits, "If you leave Rejuvelac out in room temperature too long, it will become pink champagne. You can get a slight buzz from it."
Still, she's never felt intoxicated. And she thinks the fermentation is key to aiding digestion. "Rejuvelac breaks down carbohydrates, protein, and sugar so the body can absorb it," she says.
Now when Moen goes out to eat, she takes her jug of Rejuvelac along. And at her wheat grass bar on 15th Street, she enjoys converting the newcomers.
When people ask for help with a drinking problem, she advises them to drink two to three ounces of wheat grass juice, and two quarts of Rejuvelac a day. As far as dieting goes, she claims that people have lost weight on as little as three ounces of Rejuvelac per day.
The cost of a shot of wheat grass juice at her bar is $1 per ounce. But the Rejuvelac chasers are free. And the juice goes for half-price during her "healthy happy hours," 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays.
At a recent happy hour, Eva stood behind the bar, smiling broadly at each of her arriving patrons, calling the regulars by name. A young, ruddy-faced man, dressed in Northwest grunge, asked shyly how much the drinks cost.
"The first one's on the house," Eva Moen declared. Then she coached him on how to drink the contents of a paper cup she'd placed before him.
"First, you pour whatever chaser you'd like. The beet and ginger Rejuvelac is the most popular. It's naturally sweetened with honey," she assured him as his hand passed tentatively over the lemon and vanilla chasers before settling on the red beet beverage.
He squared his plaid shoulders, his gaze resting on what looked and smelled like a freshly mowed lawn.
"Do it in one gulp," Moen advised soothingly.
He tilted his head back and got a bit redder about the ears as he downed the tart liquid. Then he reached for the Rejuvelac chaser, like a man in the open sea grabbing for a life raft.
"Hey, this beet stuff tastes good," he said a few seconds later.
Moen could not contain her glee. The high priestess of green had once again conducted a successful initiation rite!
The Wheat Grass Farm and Depot is located at 1785 15th St. It is open Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Owner Eva Moen is happy to field questions on how to make her juices (864-3001). She also sells quarts of Rejuvelac, as well as the wheat berries to make your own brew.