Chlorophyll extraction is considered an advanced cooking technique, which I think is ridiculous considering how easy it is. I was surprised to discover that you can’t find much on the Interwebs about chlorophyll in cooking. You ask, “Chlorophyll in cooking? Huh?” Chlorophyll imparts a beautiful green, tasteless color to foods. Additionally, it is very healthy. If you’d like to do some further reading, here’s more information on chlorophyll than you ever wanted to know.
I’m going to cover chlorophyll in two parts. Part 1 will be extraction. In Part 2 I’ll show you how to use chlorophyll to make gorgeous Pasta Verde. Also, I’ll follow up with a recipe using the pasta to make a salad I’m planning to take to an annual family reunion on the 4th of July.
I hate waste. When my spinach or arugula bolts I have a problem with pulling it up and throwing it on the compost pile. Using bolted greens to extract chlorophyll is my solution to “wasting” the leafy greens that I go through so much trouble to grow in my little garden.
This morning after the dew had dried, I cut the spinach stalks and stripped the leaves. I ended up with a little over half a pound of spinach. I plant small 18 x 18 inch square patches of spinach and arugula several times throughout the growing season, so I almost always have some available. I have two favorite varieties of spinach. Monstrueux De Viroflay, an old French Heirloom variety, is planted in the cooler temperatures of spring, and again in early fall for overwintering. Summer Perfection, a heat tolerant variety from Renee’s Garden Seeds, is planted once summer temperatures gear up.
The next step is to macerate the spinach with some water. I used about 2 cups of water for my half pound of spinach, placed it in my food processor, and whizzed the behoozit out of it (thanks to my friend Tina for that wonderful new addition to my vocabulary).
Once the greens are processed, strain the pulp through a jelly bag or a couple of layers of fine cheesecloth or butter muslin to obtain a deep, dark green juice. Squeeze as much liquid as possible out of the pulp. The pulp is what my compost pile finally gets.
This next part is the cool part! Place the juice in a heavy, stainless steel sauce pan and gently heat over medium heat to approximately 150 degrees. Be careful not to let it get too hot. What you’ll be watching for is the chlorophyll to separate from the water portion of the juice. You know you’re there when it looks sort of like algae floating in murky green pond water.
Remove from heat and pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer. Press very gently on the green paste in the strainer to remove some of the excess water (which I throw on my compost pile). The green paste is your chlorophyll. If you won’t be using it immediately, cover and store in the refrigerator. It’s best if used within a couple of days. I’ve never done it before, but some day I plan to experiment to see if it will freeze well. I got about 1/4 cup of chlorophyll from the half pound of spinach. 1/4 cup is what will be needed for a batch of Pasta Verde.