What is Swiss Chard? Recipe Braised Chard Fresh From Farmers Market

Friends Drift Inn Farm – Recipes

Swiss Chard Recipe and Gardening Heirloom Greens

First Episode Friends Drift Inn with Joyce Pinson
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Skillet Braised Chard featured on March 2012 FDI Show

Here in Appalachia, Swiss Chard is not something we grew up with it. Fact is, I never heard of Chard until one of our local Farmers Market growers offered it.

Chard, Beta vulgaris, is grown for its dark green leaves and can be prepared in a variety of ways. Some folks like it braised; a gentle wilting on top of the stove. It is also favored as a potherb dressing up bean soups and stews. Large leaves make a visually stunning tropical bed for plating  chicken salad,   pimento cheese and other nibblers popular at spring bridal showers.

Swiss Chard enjoys cooler weather, and is one of the first products seen at the spring markets, taking a break during the hot summer months, then reappearing in early fall. At the grocery, at least the one I shop, Swiss Chard is presented with very large full leaves. They are beautiful, but given my “druthers” I prefer the greens smaller and more tender. (Just one more reason to Shop Farmers Market First!)

Swiss Chard Rhubarb Variety

The varieties are numerous. Bright Lights> is favored for the variety of colors in the stems and veins. Rhubarb Chard, so named because of the scarlet midribs and stalks, makes a stunning presentation.

Chard seeds are large, easy for children to work with in the garden. Each seed is actually more of a “pod” containing several seeds. Get in the garden! Seeds should be planted about 4 inches apart. As the plants break through the surface, you will need to thin leaving about 2 inches between each plant. I like to use these young shoots in salads.

Chard takes about four to six weeks to come to maturity. Plant these greens in cooler sections of the garden where there is protection from the hot mid-afternoon sun. Many commercial producers grow Swiss Chard under shade cloths which prolong production into early summer.

When chard is ready to harvest, pick leaves from the outside of the plant. As the season progresses, chard continues to produce leaves along the inside perimenter.

Chard has a bit of a bitter taste, but in my opinion is much milder than mustard or collards. On the first Pike TV show I paired Swiss chard with honey corn cakes for a sweet and savory combination that works well with Orange Ginger Chicken. For added whimsy, garnish with toasted almonds bathed in Teriyaki or Bourbon Barrel Foods Soy Sauce.


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About Joyce Pinson

Joyce Friend Pinson is a regional farm-to-table columnist for the Appalachian-News Express. She is a local television host. Her column show and blog, Friends Drift Inn, explores food, gardening, and real life farm-to-table stories from the perspective of a baby boomer in Appalachia. Joyce has a background in agriculture, media, and small business. Joyce is an heirloom gardening addict and home canner. She has a penchant for big hats, pointy toed shoes, and bourbon. Along with her husband Charlie, Joyce really does live in a barn where they ballroom dance. And laugh. And cook. And giggle.