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The Versatility of Swiss Chard

November 9th, 2011

                                                          The Versatility of Swiss Chard

When we envision Swiss chard, we may associate it with Switzerland.  Instead, we should picture this vitamin rich, green leafy vegetable devoured by those that live in the Mediterranean.  Places like Spain, France, Monaco, Italy and Greece all consider Swiss chard a staple.  And it is no wonder why it is so loved in there region; it is rich in calcium, potassium, vitamins A and C, beta-carotene and carotenoids – a pigment that studies show helps prevent against degenerative eye problems.  This leafy green has also been linked to helping balance blood sugar levels, and those with Alzheimer’s. Looking to include more minerals in your diet? Swiss Chard has a whole host of them, including copper, calcium, sodium, potassium, iron, manganese and phosphorus.  It is not a mere coincidence that those living in the Mediterranean region are some of the healthiest people in the world! It is clear that this leafy green vegetable is a powerhouse of nutrients just waiting to be served up for a healthy family meal.

When choosing seeds to grow, it is easy to pass up the Fordhook Giant Swiss Chard for a leafy green we are all familiar with leaf lettuces and cabbages.  But we at Humble Seed find Swiss chard to be just as versatile due to its soft leaves and subtle flavor. Many also find it tastes less bitter than Collard, Kale and Mustard greens.  So what are you waiting for? The Producer features Fordhook Giant Swiss Chard, and is just one of our premium seed kits that offer heirloom, certified organic, non-GMO, and non-hybrid seeds to choose from.

Planting Guide

Season: Swiss chard does not grow well in the heat, making it a cool weather vegetable.  Grow these leafy greens at the end of summer, fall and spring.  These plants grow best at temperatures never above 75 degrees F, and not below 32 degrees F. Therefore, avoid winter planting, and cover plants during cold frosts. Also, keep in mind that the maturity rate of the plant ought to be at least 2-3 weeks before the first snow.

Soil: Fertile soils that drain well work best for Swiss chard.  To prepare the soil just prior to planting, add well-composted organic matter, an all purpose fertilizer, and/or a cow manure tea to ensure the soil is nutrient rich.

Placement & Planting: Be sure to find an area exposed to direct sunlight before planting.  For container gardening, plant seed ½ – 1 inch deep in fertile, well-drained soil. When transplanting (plants should have 3-4 true leaves) or growing Swiss chard in a larger garden, plant 6 inches apart, and leave a foot between each row.

Watering: Provide 1 inch of water a week, or 2 inches during warmer days.  If you notice any flowers appearing, this means the plant is getting too hot.  If this occurs, prune the flower stalks to prolong the harvest and provide more water.

Harvesting: When the moment of truth arrives, harvest when leaves are about 5-6 inches in length. Leave 2-3 inches of stalk in the soil, and trim away any unwanted leaves that may be impeding the growth of any new growth. Store the leaves in the refrigerator for as long as 2 weeks.

Recipes:
Looking for some fresh ways to use Swiss chard? Your taste buds will do a happy dance once they taste these recipes!

*The Basics: As Fraulein Maria says in the Sound of Music, “Let’s start from the very beginning, a very good place to start.” With that in mind, the whole Swiss chard plant is edible, and you can enjoy it raw, sautéed, braised, steamed, or in soup. However, many prefer to eat just the tender leaves over the crisp stalk. Therefore, remove the stalk and any ribs if you are looking for less crunch.

Stuffed Shells with Oyster Mushrooms and Swiss Chard
This is an absolutely delicious dish with brain boosting oyster mushrooms and nutrient rich Swiss chard.  Bonus: the calories and fat normally found in stuffed shells do a disappearing act!  View how-to pictures here.  
(Serves 4-5)

3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 yellow onion, diced
8 large oyster mushrooms, chopped
1 bunch of Swiss chard, chopped
1 pinch nutmeg
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
salt to taste
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/2 large lemon, juiced
1 package pasta shells
1 jar of your favorite tomato sauce
1 large tomato, thinly sliced
1-2 T vegan Parmesan cheese
1-2 teaspoons parsley, finely chopped
2 tablespoons of olive oil for cooking

Method:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cook pasta shells for approximately 10-15 minutes in boiling water and a little olive oil.  Allow pasta shells to boil until el dente. Drain water and carefully set pasta shells aside. Heat a skillet on medium high heat with olive oil and add onions, garlic, and a pinch of salt.  Once the onions are translucent, add the oyster mushrooms and another pinch of salt.  Allow the oysters to soften (about 4-5 minutes). Stir in the Swiss chard, a pinch of salt, red pepper flakes, and the nutmeg.  Allow mixture to simmer until the chard is wilted (about 5-6 minutes). Stir in pine nuts and lemon juice.

Pour 1/4 of the tomato sauce into the large casserole dish.  Carefully stuff each shell with the vegetable mixture, and set each shell in the dish.  Neatly line up the shells until you have used up the vegetable mixture. Pour the remaining tomato sauce over the shells, and place tomato slices (about 6 needed) on top of the shells.

Lightly place tin foil over the casserole dish, and bake for 20 min.  Once done, take off tin foil, and bake for an additional 5 minutes.  This will give your dish a nice rustic appeal.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and parsley.  Serve immediately.

Swiss Chard Salad With Garlicky Pommes De Terre

(Serves 4 )Take a mini-mental vacation to France and make this delicious and unique salad.  When we visited France, we saw Parisians in cafes just about everywhere devouring this salad.  View how-to pictures here.

Ingredients:
5-6 stalks Swiss chard, de-ribbed and chopped well
2 tomatoes, sliced
2 avocados, sliced
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 Yukon Gold potatoes (or other small potatoes)
5 cloves garlic
4 slices smokey Tempeh bacon
parsley for garnish
salt and pepper to taste
1 baguette, sliced

Miso and Herb Vinaigrette

¼ cup red wine vineger
¼ cup chopped basil
¼ cup fresh parsley
2 Tbsp fresh cilantro
1 Tbsp. mellow white miso paste
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
cracked pepper
salt

Method:
Arrange your Swiss chard, tomatoes and avocados on a plate. Heat a large skillet on medium high and add the olive oil.  Stir in potatoes and season lightly with salt and pepper. Sauté the potatoes for at least 10 – 15 minutes, or until browned and tender. When potatoes are almost finished cooking, add garlic and a touch more olive oil. Sauté the garlic and potatoes for the remaining few minutes.

While potatoes are simmering, make your dressing and brown the tempeh bacon.  For the dressing, whisk together all ingredients in a medium sized bowl.  The end result is purposely a little chunky from the herbs.

Assemble the salad by adding the browned tempeh bacon to the Swiss chard, and pile the potatoes high on top.  Add the freshly chopped parsley, and dressing.  Slice the baguette and offer it on the side of the salad.  The French never go without a side of baguette!

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2 Responses to “The Versatility of Swiss Chard”

  1. Pat says:

    I chop it and wilt it a little , then use as a substitute for spinach in my Greek Spinach Pie recipe. It’s great!

  2. Pat says:

    I actually cut it fine with scissors…much easier than chopping. I avoid using the ribs.

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