Making Both Ends Meat #Meatless Monday

by: EJ on 09/29/2014

Today's post is an excerpt from David Kennedy's newly released Eat Your Greens: The Surprising Power of Home Grown Leaf Crops.  David examines the role meat plays in our society both past and present.  He then introduces leaf concentrate, a food that contains nearly 40% more protein by weight than a beef steak.  And to top it off, I have included his recipe for Dinosaur Cookies, "A great way to trick innocent children into eating leafy green vegetables."

As hunters and gatherers, humans grew up understanding the value of meat. Though the gathering may have paid most of the bills, meat had special significance both nutritionally and culturally. We sought after meat because game animals predigest and concentrate the nutrients from the plants they eat, making the nutrients in meat both abundant and easily absorbed. This combination has made meat almost universally desirable as a food. 

We’ve never lost our appetite for meat. Meat is too expensive for the people occupying the lower rungs of life’s ladder, but as we grow wealthier we eat more meat. Chinese meat consumption, for example, has increased about five-fold as their economy has strengthened over the past 20 years. Similar increases in meat eating are taking place in India, Brazil, Mexico, and other rapidly developing countries - though they still lag well behind the wealthier, more carnivorous societies of North America, Europe and Australia.  

Adding a small amount of meat to the diet of people living on a few dollars (or less) a day would provide them with a significant health benefit. It could supply high-quality protein and readily usable iron, vitamin A, zinc, and other essential nutrients missing from the starchy staples that make up the bulk of the diet of the poor. Most North Americans no longer need such a high-octane nutritional package. For us, increased consumption of meat, especially red meat, has myriad negative health impacts, including increased risk of heart disease, colon and pancreatic cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes, kidney disease, hypertension, and obesity. 

Our ancestral appetite for meat is also causing some major environmental damage. Loss of rain forest, soil erosion, greenhouse gases, pollution of surface water, and antibiotic-resistant bacteria are some of the environmental problems aggravated by increased meat production. Meat makes ecological sense when ruminants like cows and sheep are raised on coarse forage that they can convert into a smaller amount of more nutritionally dense food. It doesn’t make sense when animals are fed cultivated corn and soy that could feed people directly. Meat is desirable, expensive, and hard on the environment.

Culturally, the hunting and sharing of game meat was an important ritual that strengthened the bonds of community. For most of us, the thrill of the hunt is long gone. The intrepid hunter has been replaced by a chump holding a can of lighter fluid and grilling in a “Kiss the Cook” apron. Still, the cultural status of meat remains high. Feeding the nine billion plus people expected at the global dinner table by 2050 without trashing the natural environment will be a Herculean undertaking, one made even more daunting as demand for meat increases.

One approach to this quandary has been to look for ways to make synthetic meat. This strategy took a big step forward in August 2013, when a laboratory-made hamburger was served up in London. The burger began as stem cells extracted during a biopsy of two cows. Like most people, you probably lack the resources to extract bovine stem cells (or the backyard to graze a few head of cattle).

However, you can still convert the foliage in your backyard into a supernutritious food for your human family. A relatively simple process called leaf fractionation can mechanically separate the indigestible cellulose and create leaf concentrate, a plant-based food with meat-like nutritional attributes. While not much of a threat to steak houses or hamburger joints (at least for now), leaf concentration is potentially a powerful food technology that could become important as the natural world strains under the burden of feeding so many. 

Though very few people have ever tasted leaf concentrate, it is not a new food technology. A Frenchman named Hilaire Marin Rouelle (1718–1779) made curd from green leaves over 200 years ago. He tried mashing the leaves of several types of crops with a marble mortar and pestle. He then strained out the leaf juice and heated it. Just before the leaf juice began to boil, a green curd formed and floated to the top. Almost all of the cellulose from the leaf cell walls and most of the water in the leaves were removed in this simple process. When as much liquid as is practical is pressed from this green curd, it is called leaf concentrate (or sometimes leaf protein, or even leaf protein concentrate).

Economics favor making leaf concentrate on a scale large enough to justify specialized equipment, but it can certainly be made on a household scale using familiar kitchen equipment. The steps to making leaf concentrate are similar at every scale, from commercial operations (such as France Luzerne’sin Aulnay, France, that processes 150 tons of alfalfa per hour) to peasants pounding leaves with wooden sticks


Photo Credit: Brent Miller

Dinosaur Cookies


12⁄3 cup flour

1⁄3 cup dried leaf powder or leaf concentrate

1⁄4 tsp salt

3/4 cup butter or margarine

3/4 cup sugar

1 egg

1 tsp almond extract



Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine flour, leaf powder, and salt. Beat butter and sugar until creamy in a separate bowl. Add egg and flavoring.

Beat well. Add flour mixture. Gather dough into a ball. Refrigerate 1 hour, then roll dough until 1⁄4-inch thick.


Cut out shapes and add candy eyes if desired. Bake 13–15 minutes. Do not brown.

Yields about 36 cookies





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