Swiss chard is an excellent green that can grow most of the year round, Fran Pickering from Brighton Permaculture Trust, shares a wonderfully garlicy vinaigrette that has converted even non-green eaters to this humble vegetable.
Out of all the leafy green vegetables, Swiss chard is an especially prolific grower, and a great example of a ‘cut and come again’ crop. Best sown in moisture-retentive and free-draining soil, Swiss chard thrives in an open sunny area. When harvested regularly, you can expect to see a constant supply of re-growth of this nutritious leafy green.
Because of its sun loving nature, greater growth is certain during the summer month. If you’re a regular receiver of local vegetable boxes, it’s sure to be a staple in your kitchen already! With that being said, Swiss chard can also handle cooler temperatures – if you cover the plants over winter with cloches or a similar cover, leaves will be ready to harvest the following early spring.
To harvest Swiss chard, you want to cut the stalks about 7 centimetres (or 3 inches) up from the ground, and work from the outer leaves in, as new leaves will then continue to grow from the centre of the plant. However, once the leaves are cut away from the base, they need to be stored and eaten quickly (within a few days), to ensure you experience the chard at its best, before it loses its crunch and colour.
There’s another stand-out reason to reduce the time between harvest to dinner plate – the sooner you eat these vibrant greens, the more nutrients you’ll benefit from… and Swiss chard has many! It’s no secret that leafy greens are some of the most nutrient-dense foods we can eat, and Swiss chard is so much so, that just 100 grams has the full recommended daily amount needed of vitamin A, and over triple the amount needed of vitamin K. Not to mention the high levels of other vitamins and minerals, such as magnesium, potassium, iron and Vitamin C.
So, if you find yourself with a Swiss chard in your veg box, or have a large crop of your own, hold back from stocking up your freezer and try the speedy recipe below – a perfect way to enjoy them at their best.
Steamed Swiss Chard in Garlic Vinaigrette Recipe:
This recipe is a favourite of mine – it’s simple yet flavourful, and is a real treat if you’ve not made up your mind about chard, for growing or for eating! Depending on your taste for garlic and mustard, you can slightly increase or decrease these quantities, to achieve your perfect level of heat and tang.
If you’re short on time and fancy something really fresh, Swiss chard needn’t be steamed to be eaten – this certainly removes some of the ‘bitter’ taste, but washed, sliced and served raw with this dressing can be just as tasty, especially if you’re craving salad in the warm summer months.
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped or grated
5 tablespoons sunflower or olive oil
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
½ teaspoon smooth mustard
500 g Swiss chard (or amount required for your desired serving size)
salt and pepper, to season
- To prepare the vinaigrette, place all of the ingredients (apart from the chard) into a sterilized glass jar and shake vigorously to mix. Alternatively, place all of the ingredients into a mixing bowl and hand blend with a whisk or a fork. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
- Next, roughly chop the Swiss chard leaves and place them in on-the-hob steamer tiers. Add cold water to the bottom pan of the steamer, set it over a medium–high heat and bring to the boil. Steam the chard for 2–4 minutes, or to your desired texture. Note: chard leaves cook quicker than the stalks, so you might want to place them in separate steamer tiers and remove the wilted leaves after 2 minutes, and allow the stalks to cook a little longer.
- Once the chard is cooked, remove from the heat and steep in the prepared vinaigrette, stirring everything together and serving immediately.