An abundance of chard — and some recipes
Swiss chard is a workhorse in the garden. Easy to grow and prolific, it thrives almost regardless of conditions — even in the downpours we’ve had this growing season.
Last year I planted chard in August and covered it in November with low hoops and plastic. It was sitting there waiting for us in March.
Now the March-sown crop is thriving in an open garden bed, and there’s no shortage of greens to accompany almost any main course.
For a long time I grew Bright Lights chard, for its gorgeous yellow, orange and pink midribs. Now I favor older varieties that are more productive and have smoother leaves. Given the proliferation of snails in our garden, a variety with hiding places, as occur on the more savoyed leaves of Bright Lights, is a little more difficult to wash well than the smoother-leaved varieties, such as Fordhook and Argentata.
All three varieties mentioned above are open-pollinated, so, assuming they don’t cross with one another (or with the closely related beets), you can save seed from these plants and, over time, have a variety that is adapted to your own garden conditions — not that swiss chard needs much adapting.
How to eat all that chard? Here are some ideas:
Plant chard close together and harvest baby chard for salads.
Make an omelet by mixing together a couple of eggs and a couple of tablespoons of water, a dash of salt and pepper, and pouring the mix into a heated cast-iron frying pan. Add a layer of chard leaves (with the midribs removed, if they’re big) and a layer of Parmesan cheese, cover the pan and cook the omelet. Uncover the pan after a couple of minutes and flip half of the nicely browned omelet over on top of the other half.
Chop chard midribs into half-inch pieces and use them in stir-fries. (Argentata midribs are especially good, without the oxalic acid taste that you get with spinach and some other chard varieties.)
Chop chard leaves into small pieces and add them to pasta dishes and casseroles, suggests Fedco Seeds; or add them to soups.
Add leaves to lasagna.
Sauté garlic and onion pieces in olive oil and butter for a few minutes, then add chopped chard stems and about half a cup of dry white wine and sauté for a few more minutes, then add the rest of the chard leaves, chopped, and sauté until wilted. Add about a tablespoon of lemon juice and a couple of tablespoons of Parmesan cheese and serve, adding salt to taste.
Sauté garlic in olive oil for a couple of minutes, then add strips of chard leaves (without the midrib) and about 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Other possible additions to chard stir-fries include mushrooms and olives.
Serve boiled and drained chard leaves with a Béarnaise sauce, as a side dish with fish, chicken or steak.