28 April 2014

Swiss Chard

Swiss Chard is one of the stalwarts of the veg patch. It has a spinach-like flavour, if a bit more robust. Unlike spinach, which runs to seed quickly, chard can be picked over a long period, and, once established, grows in abundance. With its multi-coloured stems, it makes an attractive feature in the veg garden.

I planted a line of chard last spring, and have been picking it (and giving it away to anyone who wants some) ever since. It continues to grow during mild winter weather - providing a useful source of greens during the lean winter months. It will survive mild frosts, but can be killed off during particularly cold weather. If it survives through to the spring, it will try to set seed. At this point it can be cut back hard, and will produce new leaves. It can be cut back this way a number of times, but eventually will need replacing.

The young leaves can be used raw in salads, although uncooked it has an irony flavour, so I only use it in moderation. To cook, separate the tasty stems from the leaves. Cook the stems for about 10 minutes in a small amount of boiling water, and add the leaves about 2-3 minutes before the end. The leaves do need more cooking than the baby spinach leaves one finds in the supermarket. Chard can be served simply with a small squeeze of lemon juice, a little sea salt and some good extra virgin olive oil. Like spinach, it works well with sheep's milk cheeses like ricotta and feta. I also enjoy using it in stews with chickpeas (which is a classic Spanish tapa) and other dried legumes.

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