Summer is underway and I’m watching my (very small) garden grow, however most of it won’t be ready for harvest until much later in July or even August. The exception are green leafy things, like lettuce, spinach, herbs, and chard. I love Swiss chard and plant some every year. It tastes a bit like spinach but is much more versatile and pretty. You can use it raw in salads; cooked in stir-fries, quiches, curries and pies; or even rolled up as faux cabbage rolls or low-carb wraps. So many possibilities.
Swiss chard (or simply, chard) is actually the leaf of a variety of beet. It comes in red, white, purple or yellow varieties, which refers to the colour of the stalk. The leaves are always green and fairly large. Chard is native to the Mediterranean and Middle East, but is now cultivated around the world. The Greeks wrote about chard as early as the 4th century CE, where the plant was used medicinally.
Nutritionally, chard is an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin A, magnesium and potassium. It is also a source of iron and calcium. Chard contains oxalic acid, so it needs to be cooked for the iron and calcium to be available. Cooked chard is considered a good source of iron. Stir-fry or cook the leaves in just a bit of water for a couple of minutes until they are just wilted.
Chard is ridiculously easy to grow. Simply toss some seeds into a large gardening pot filled with potting soil, put it in a relatively sunny spot and keep the soil moist. As you harvest the chard, periodically resow new seeds. This will give you chard for the entire summer. (Presumably you can grow chard indoor in the winter, although I haven’t tried this.) Keep an eye on the leaves of the plant. If they start to get brown spots or ‘tracks’, remove the leaf immediately. You’ve got ‘leaf miners‘ and left alone they’ll rapidly ‘mine’ your entire crop! I actually lost almost all my chard to the miners earlier this summer. My new crop is only just starting to sprout up now.
Here are some recipes for chard from around the world wide web:
- Swiss chard lasagna with ricotta and mushroom from Bon Appétit
- Swiss chard purses with sausage stuffing from Gourmet
- Kale and chard salad with blue cheese and walnuts from Pink Bites
- Raw curried cashew chard wraps from Gluten-free Cat
- Pasta with Swiss chard from Chatelaine
And here is my own recipe for Swiss Chard pie, adapted from Colin Spencer’s The Vegetable Book. As well, this picnic-ready spinach salad with quinoa recipe works very well if chard is substituted for the spinach. Enjoy!
Swiss Chard Pie
- 1 to 1.5 kg Swiss chard, chopped
- 1/2 cup gruyere chese
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
- 1 cup 10-15% cream
- 2 free-run eggs, beaten
- 1 Tbs fresh sage or oregano
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- Raw pastry, chilled, enough to make a covered pie
Preheat the oven to 375F and take the pastry out of the fridge. Cook the chopped chard for 5-10 minutes over low heat in a saucepan with a tiny bit of water. Once cooked. Cool, drain, and then squeeze out any excess water from the chard.
Using about 3/4 of the pastry, roll out your bottom pastry shell, put it in your pie dish. Roll out the top and set aside.
In a bowl, beat together the eggs and cream. Add the cheese, cooked chard and seasoning. Put the mixture into the baked pie shell. Brush the edges of the pie shell with milk and then put the pastry top on. Crimp the edges to seal the pie shell and top together.
Brush the top with milk (optional) and bake for 45 minutes. Serve warm or cold.
This post is one in a regular weekly series on seasonal produce and ingredients. Enjoy!