I was inspired to really try gardening after reading Barbara Kingsolver‘s book Animal Vegetable Miracle. If you haven’t read it yet, you DEFINITELY have to. It is a fantastic book that talks about food production, food morality, and most importantly, eating great food. In that book, Barbara Kingsolver raved about seeds from the Seed Savers Exchange. I was struck by her description of the Five Color Silverbeet (known as Chard in the US) most of all. She raved about the flavor and the beautiful color, and lamented that more people don’t eat it. Ben and I had never tried it before, but we decided to plant some and try it out.
We LOVE it! It is a beautiful plant. If you get the five color or rainbow variety you get stems in varieties of red, orange, pink, yellow, and white. The leaves also vary in shades of green that are beautiful in the garden. Another great thing about chard in the garden is how long you can harvest it. You plant it early in the spring and you can harvest it all the way until after the first frost. Just take the big leaves from the outside and leave the little ones on the inside. It will keep growing so you can keep eating it.
When I first went to prepare it I had no idea what to do. A Food TV recipe said that the Italian way to do it in the fall is the simplest way. It brings out the flavor of the chard and the freshness of a veggie fresh from the garden. We still have not found a better recipe. And to keep raving about it, it is simple and quick without a ton of ingredients.
Be warned, though. If you get chard that isn’t very fresh it won’t turn it out very well. Read: it probably won’t do well if you get it from the grocery store unless you can tell that it is nice and fresh. Not floppy. In a perfect world, you would get it from your garden or the farmer’s market.
IMPORTANT COOKING TIP: The reason that most people don’t like fresh spinach or dark green leafies is because they overcook it. I did it once on accident and it was terrible! So bitter. You do not want it to be black. It should still be dark green and slightly wilted.
Swiss Chard and Mushrooms Points: 1 per cup
- 2 Tbsp butter (yes the real butter!)
- 1/2 a small onion, chopped (or 1/4 of a large one). About 1/3 of a cup.
- 1 LARGE bunch of chard (about 3 cups chopped)(you can also use Kale or Spinach)
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- About 1/2 cup of sliced fresh mushrooms (or to taste)
- Salt and pepper
- Splash of rice wine vinegar or white wine vinegar
- Get all of the veggies ready first, it goes pretty fast.
- Take the chard leaves and stack them up so that the bottom of the leaf (where the stem starts) are all at about the same place. Chop off the stem. Most people will tell you to compost the stem because they are tough. But if you cook it properly it has great flavor and texture.
- Chop the stems into about 1 inch pieces.
- Take about 7-10 leaves from the stack. Roll them up length-wise and cut them into 1 inch wide strips. You do that by slicing across the roll. Do that for all the leaves. This is the simple, fast way to chop dark green leafies. Keep doing that with all the chard.
- Chop the onion and garlic. Slice the mushrooms.
- Melt the butter in a large sautee pan.
- Put the onions and chard stems in the pan. Cook until they start to turn clear. Push them towards the outside of the pan. Put the mushrooms in the center and let them brown on both sides. COOKING TIP: As we learned from Julie and Julia, don’t crowd the mushrooms, otherwise they won’t brown. Leave room around the pieces so that they brown.
- Once the other things are done, add in the spinach one handful at a time. COOKING TIP: Add a bit of salt and pepper every time you add in a handful of leaves. Otherwise, you will have to put in what seems like a ton of salt and pepper at the end and it won’t distribute well.
- Stir it around with a wooden spoon until that handful just starts to wilt. Then add the next handful and the salt and pepper. COOKING TIP: add the next handful when the last one JUST starts to wilt. You don’t want your leaves to go black, you want them to still be slightly crunchy and dark green. If they are black, they are bitter.
- When you put in the last handful of chard add about 1/2 tsp (I do 2-3 shakes) of white wine vinegar or rice vinegar. You can’t really taste the vinegar, but it adds a ton to the flavor.
- Serve when hot and steaming. You will be very surprized at how great it is.