Is it possible to chemically treat grass after "harvesting" it to make it digestible by humans? I know we can "eat" grass, but we can't break it down in our stomachs. If there is some chemical treatment to partially break grass down into something we can digest, I see it possibly being used to end world hunger! I know we already treat bone to make it into gelatin, and I am wondering if something similar can be done for grass.

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    $\begingroup$ Comestible grass is already available. It's called salad... $\endgroup$
    – Babounet
    Feb 7 '15 at 18:03
  • $\begingroup$ @Babounet However, we don't grow salad in our lawns typically. However, this does bring up an interesting point in that maybe we can grow something in our lawns that is edible and suitable for a lawn (if there is such a thing). If it doesn't exist yet, perhaps it could be made? $\endgroup$
    – Jonathan
    Feb 7 '15 at 18:05
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    $\begingroup$ "Edible" and "digestible" are two different things. The latter implies the ingested matter can be mostly metabolised into nutrients/energy storage. Presumably a large portion of a plant's mass could be converted to digestible sugars for humans with the use of enzymes such as cellulase, or acid/base catalyzed hydrolysis of polysaccharides. $\endgroup$ Feb 7 '15 at 18:32
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    $\begingroup$ I take it you're not looking for the answer, "feed it to a cow"? ;-) $\endgroup$ Feb 7 '15 at 22:25
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    $\begingroup$ How about that grass is low in nutrition and thus making it human edible doesn't mean a lot. Cows need to eat a lot of grass to get their nutrition. $\endgroup$ Feb 8 '15 at 7:05

The indigestible component of grasses is cellulose, which is polymerized glucose.

Yes, it is possible to hydrolyze the cellulose to glucose, which is of course digestible.

The hydrolysis can be catalyzed enzymatically with a cellulase, or using acid hydrolysis.

The process of hydrolyzing cellulose is often discussed in the context of so called cellulosic ethanol, as the glucose is then fermented to ethanol subsequent to hydrolysis.


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