Sunday, June 7, 2009

What To Do with the Chard?

I have been asked, “what do you do with the chard?” by people who want to know what’s in my garden. Like me, they had heard that chard worked as a spinach substitute that could stand temperature extremes in both directions, and they thought it sounded like a dream come true for extending harvestable food into more seasons. Then, they tried it in their own gardens.

Maybe they grew the variety Bright Lights, which is beautiful, or maybe Lucullus, an old standard, and found that they didn’t like it. They probably gave their chard a fair trial, too, preparing it in a variety of ways, before pulling it out of the garden as a plant that was definitely NOT like spinach.

If those were the only varieties available, I probably wouldn’t like chard either. I know this, because I also have tried them, and had that exact response.

However, before I ever tried to grow chard, I had read in an old Time/Life cookbook about a kind of chard referred to as Perpetual Spinach. It is less tough than other varieties, and tastes a bit like beet greens, which I really enjoy, but it doesn’t turn all the other food it is cooked with purple, like beet greens tend to do.

This is the only kind of chard that I grow now (having given up on the others), and I use it everywhere I would use cooked spinach. For example, it goes in “spinach” lasagna, ravioli, shepherd’s pie, quiche, curried vegetables, and enchiladas.

Before incorporating into a dish, I wash, then chop the leaves, and then wilt the pieces in a big skillet. It isn’t hard, and the product is a lot like what comes in boxes of chopped frozen spinach.

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