Everyone has heard of chard but how many of us are growing it? Chard (aka Swiss or Rainbow) is one of the most nutrient-rich vegetables (second only to spinach), and a gorgeous addition to any vegetable garden. Moderately rich, well drained soil forms the foundation from which this beautiful and delicious plant can be grown.
In addition to its rich green leaves, rainbow chard displays a spectrum of red, yellow, orange, and ruby on its leaf stem and veins. While this hardy plant grows in many climates, here in California it's seen in gardens almost year round, putting out new leaves a year after planting.
At our Demonstration Garden, we use three DripWorks products to irrigate chard. A 3'x3' raised bed has Mini-Jet Sprayers set up in the corners that are watered 15 minutes, twice daily. In another 4'x4' bed we use Soaker Dripline. In a third bed, Aqua-Traxx drip tape does the trick.
One the of the healthiest foods you can eat, chard is especially rich in vitamin A (beta carotene) and vitamin C. Combine its rich, sweet taste with other healthy foods from the garden and you have a meal that's both smart and delicious.
Both the leaves and stems are edible. Stems can be used to add texture and flavor to soups and salads. Sautéed or steamed, the leaves take about 3-4 minutes to cook and the stems a bit longer.
A nice way to prepare chard is to sauté the chopped (1"-2") stems in olive or grapeseed oil with minced garlic and almonds, cooking them until tender. Add the chopped chard leaves for a few minutes, sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese, and cover for a minute before serving. A rich and fantastically flavorful treat awaits your taste buds.
Finely chopped and sautéed can also be added to scrambled eggs or an omelet with bacon, tomatoes, onions, and zucchini. Don't skimp on the chard. Remember: it may look like a lot when you first put it in the pan, but it'll cook down to almost nothing.
Cook the risotto in vegetable or chicken broth until it's thick and creamy, and then add the chopped and steamed chard leaves. If you're feeling more adventurous, add sautéed onion, a little fennel, and top it with some Parmigiano Reggiano. Molto bene!
Steamed Au Buerre
Simply put, this will get your kids to love chard too. Steam the leaves for 3-4 minutes and let some butter melt over it. What's not to love? You adults may substitute olive oil... or not!
Adding chopped chard to leftovers (say a panful of potatoes and chicken sausage) is an amazingly fast and easy way to pull together a tasty meal, in minutes!
Try using chard in stir fry recipes, salads, or casseroles. When you find something you like, let us know so we can share your recipes with other! Have fun!