ROLLING IN THE GREEN: THE MAGIC OF “POWER POWDER”––DEHYDRATED PULVERIZED GREENS

Word and images by Laura Killingbeck.
Originally published in Edible South Shore South Coast Magazine Spring 2021 issue

It took me a while to realize that my mom was dosing all our meals with a mysterious green powder.

I had seen the green stuff sprinkled on top of bread and pasta dishes, but I’d never questioned what it was. Then one day I saw my mom reach into a cabinet, take out a mason jar of green powder, and sift it over a casserole.

“What is that?” I asked. She gave me a sly look and wiggled her eyebrows. “Vegetables,” she replied. My eyes widened. “Does Dad know?” I asked. “No,” she said. She paused. “Well, not usually.” And we both looked down at the green-dusted casserole and chuckled.

Both my parents are naturalists, and my dad recently retired from a dedicated career as a botany and ecology professor at the University of Rhode Island. He’s spent decades studying, cataloging, and communing with plants. He loves them all—prickly ones, sticky ones, strange ones. It’s on those grounds that he claims a vehement dislike for eating vegetables of almost any kind. Also, he once told me he “doesn’t like the taste of chlorophyll.”

This has posed an interesting challenge for my mom, who’s spent decades of her life feeding our family. She grew up on a small farm in rural North Dakota, the second-youngest child in a pack of nine. My mom knows the value of healthy food and vegetables, and uff dayou betcha she’s not going to waste a single scrap.

Luckily, my mom’s Midwestern stoicism is matched with a crafty flair for creative problem solving. If she couldn’t get my dad to eat his vegetables intentionally, maybe there was…another way. For years now, she’s sprinkled her jar of mysterious green stuff in nearly everything she cooks. Apparently, this strategy hides not only the sight of the vegetables, but also the taste of the chlorophyll.*

I recently had dinner with my parents at their home in Rhode Island, and when we finished eating, I asked if there was any green stuff in the meal.

“Oh,” said my mom, “in the potatoes.” “Really!” I said, “I hadn’t even noticed!”

“And,” she continued, “in the cheesecake.” I did a double take and turned to my dad. “Did you know that? That it was in the cheesecake?” “Oh, I know it’s in everything,” he laughed. “I don’t mind.” There is a reason they have been married for over 40 years.

I work at Round the Bend Farm, a Center for Restorative Community, in South Dartmouth, Massachusetts. We grow an abundance of nutrient-dense, mineral-rich crops. Our Garden Manager, Benoit Azagoh-Kouadio, takes special care to douse each plant with finely crafted, biodynamic foliar sprays, soil drenches, and mineral mixes. If these plants don’t add ten years to your life just by being near them, I don’t know what will. And just like my mom, I’ll be danged if I waste a single scrap.

Last spring when the greenhouse had more greens than we could eat, I cut a bushel of spinach and stuffed it in the dehydrator. A few hours later, I took out the crispy leaves and ran them through a blender. I poured the powder through a sieve and looked down at my pile of green dust. This was the magical powder my mom had been making all along. And now it was here, at my fingertips.

After that first batch of spinach, I started running the dehydrator almost nonstop. I dried kale and arugula, mustard, and mizuna. When the nettles unfurled, I cut them back and popped them in too. I clipped tender mounds of chickweed and fresh sprigs of lamb’s quarters. Everything went into the dehydrator, into the blender, and out the other side as beautiful green powder. I was rich in green stuff.

Slowly, our farm lunches began to take on a distinctive green hue. I baked the green stuff into naan bread, tortillas, and cakes. I stuck it in energy bars and swirled it into cookie dough. Once, I mixed it into homemade pasta and served it to our neighbors, the actress Jenny Slate and artist Ben Shattuck. They were very gracious. Other folks at the farm dumped the powder in their smoothies and added it to granola. One day, farmer Monica Mejia said she thought the powder would make great green eggs and ham.

“You’ve tried that?” I asked, curious.

“Well, no,” she said.

So, we cracked an egg, mixed in some powder, and scrambled it up. When it was done, we peered into the frying pan. There wasn’t any ham, but we certainly had green eggs.

Over time I realized that the green stuff my mom had dosed us with—and that I was now dosing the farm with—was something people call a “superfood.” I normally shy away from that kind of lingo, but in this case, I think it fully applies. When you dry and powder organic leafy greens and wild edible weeds, you get a concentrated version of all that nutrition. It stores well, it’s easy to use, and it incorporates perfectly into baked goods. It’s not just “green stuff:” I call it “Power Powder.”

The magic of “Power Powder” is that whether you love vegetables or hate vegetables, “Power Powder” is still for you! You can bake it into a cake or swirl it into a smoothie. Whether you hide it or flaunt it, it still has the same nutritional potency. If you use a little, it seems to disappear completely; add some more, and your meal transforms in both color and flavor. You can make “Power Powder” from organic greens that you buy at the farmers’ market, or from edible plants right in your yard. It’s a foodie’s intrigue, a forager’s delight, a farmer’s resource. And you can have a lot of fun dusting it over casseroles, spreading secret vegetables in plain sight.

*I’m joking—chlorophyll remains flavorful, no matter what you do to it.

Laura Killingbeck works at Round the Bend Farm in South Dartmouth, MA, and writes about ecology and adventure. She loves long journeys by foot and pedal, and frequently forages her way along multi-month treks.

3 Recipes to try!

Power Powder | Pulverized Greens

Master technique for desiccating and pulverizing greens in Power Powder:

  • Use any leafy greens that are edible raw, such as spinach, kale, mustard, arugula, lettuce, chickweed, stinging nettles, lamb’s quarters. Each plant, of course, has its own distinctive flavor. Spinach and lettuce are subtle; arugula and mustard more pungent. Whether you try one variety at a time or mix and match lots of different greens at once, the technique is the same.
  • Place the greens on trays in a food dehydrator and dehydrate on low for four to eight hours or until crisp. (I use a nine-tray Excalibur.) If you don’t have a dehydrator, put the greens on trays in a dry, dark, well-ventilated place and let them dry naturally.
  • Once the greens are fully dry, put them in a blender and blend until powdered.
  • For a consistent superfine powder, run the pulverized greens through a flour sifter. I use 60-mesh stainless steel, which is slightly finer than a standard flour sifter.
  • Store your “Power Powder” in a glass jar and use within a year.

Nettle Naan

Round the Bend Farm Garden Manager Benoit Azagoh-Kouadio is a wonderful cook. This recipe is adapted from one inscribed in his old, leather-bound notebook stuffed with scraps of paper and a large dried oak leaf. (Perhaps a future ingredient for a jar of pickles or a carboy of wine? Or maybe just a bookmark.)

These soft, flexible flatbreads retain a subtle flavor and a bright green color from the nettle. Eat them with curry, use as sandwich wraps, or transform into personal pizzas. These are also delicious on their own with melted cheese and roasted garlic.

EQUIPMENT

  • use gloves, cast-iron skillet or griddle

INGREDIENTS

  • 3½ to 4 cups all-purpose or bread flour
  • 2 teaspoons yeast
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons powdered nettle
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  •  cup milk or thin yogurt
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons olive or sunflower oil

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Starting out with 3 cups flour, mix all ingredients together until a soft dough forms. You can do this by hand or in a stand mixer with a dough hook. Work dough several minutes, until smooth and elastic, adding remaining flour only if necessary.
  • Cover airtight and let rest for an hour.
  • Deflate the dough and divide it into 12 evenly sized pieces. Roll into round balls, cover, and let rest for 30 minutes. (Or close airtight in a tub and chill for up to 24 hours.)
  • Roll each ball out to a roughly 6-inch disc, then stretch into a teardrop shape.
  • Heat a cast-iron skillet or griddle on medium and lightly oil the surface. Cook naan for 1to 2 minutes on each side, or until flecked with brown and bubbled. Wrap in a cloth while you finish baking the remainder.

NOTES

A special note when using stinging nettles: Nettles have fine hairs which can sting or cause a rash when you touch them. Always use gloves when handling. Pulverizing the nettles destroys the hairs so they no longer sting.

Spinach Power Balls

These little energy bites are packed with seeds, nuts, fruit, and greens. They make a great snack and store well in the fridge for up to a week.

INGREDIENTS

  • ¼ cup raisins
  • ½ cup natural peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon powdered spinach*
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 cup rolled oats not quick
  • ¼ cup ground flaxseed
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Optional Coatings

  • coconut flakes
  • finely chopped nuts
  • melted chocolate

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Soak the raisins in ¼ cup warm water for 15 to 20 minutes. Drain the water, reserving it, and process raisins in a food processor. Add peanut butter, powdered spinach, and honey, and blend until smooth.
  • In a large bowl, combine oats, flax, chia, and salt. Add the processed ingredients and mix with your hands. If the mixture is too dry to roll into balls, add a little of the reserved water.
  • Roll the mixture into bite-sized balls. Roll in coatings, if desired.