Miriam's Garden: Colorful leafy Swiss chard brings cheer to the garden

Right now in my garden, almost everything has been planted. The weather is about perfect. It rains just when we need it to and in between, the sun shines brightly, making for stellar growing conditions. And if it remains refreshingly cool at night, the Swiss chard will flourish.

Once it gets bold and leafy, nothing much bothers the Swiss chard, which always grows in my garden. Unlike other greens and anything related to arugula or cabbage, the flea beetles don’t turn it into lacework. Unlike tender lettuce, it doesn’t bolt in hot weather. Unlike spinach, it doesn’t get bitter with age, but instead remains mild and earthy. 

That’s if it can survive the bunnies, chipmunks and those weeds, which can really get you down the most.

Chard is direct sowed in early to midspring. You can try for a fall crop but I have better luck in a rainy, cool spring, although this year it’s been finicky. Chard is a cut-and-come-again vegetable. Snip first the outer leaves at the base, and don’t pull up the whole plant. It will keep on producing, until frost, maybe a bit after.

In early spring, I sowed a long row of three different types of chard at the bottom of the garden. These included ‘Fordhook Giant,’ green leaves with white ribbing; ‘Rhubarb Chard,’ red veined and striking; and ‘Bright Lights,’ flashy with yellow, pink, white, red and orange stems.

The seeds were slow to germinate. Heavy rains packed down the soil, and cool temps mixed in with the occasional baking heat. Finally the chards came up.

We covered the emerging small plants with coated green wire to protect them from the wily rabbits that believe I grow vegetables just for them. Later, life got in the way and thick weeds and dill, which grows like a weed, tried to crowd it out. Then some other critter dived under the wire and dined on my chard. A good gardener replants, and I did in a couple different places, with hope.

Swiss chard is related to beets, and sometimes is called silver beet. While beets have a fat edible root, the chard is all about the leaves. Beet leaves (greens) are edible, too, especially when young and tender. So don’t just toss them on the compost. Pretty much anything you do with chard or spinach, you can do with beet greens, but trim off the stems if they’re rough or thick and parboil them first. Garden chard won’t have as thick and tough a rib as the store-bought ones. Generally, you use both the leaves and ribs, but for thicker ribs, slice them very fine and/or start cooking them first to ensure they get tender.

Chard blends well with other greens in cooking and it looks beautiful as a border plant in the vegetable or flower garden. It’s colorful, cheery and steadfast, and I’m sure mine will grow up soon. I cook with it most in spring, when it’s young, and again in fall. Summer is for zucchini, cucumbers and tomatoes, all of which are thriving.

Miriam Rubin: mmmrubin@gmail.com and on Twitter: @mmmrubin.

Feta and Swiss Chard Galette (Miriam Rubin)

Feta and Swiss Chard Galette

PG tested

The filling and crust can be made ahead. Red chard will make the prettiest galette.

For crust

1½ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup shredded Jarlsberg or Swiss cheese

8 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces

5 to 7 tablespoons ice water

For filling

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup chopped sweet onion

2 garlic cloves, minced

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1 bunch chard (about 3/4 pound), stems removed, leaves halved lengthtwise and cut into 1-inch pieces (8 packed cups)

3/4 cup whole-milk ricotta

4 ounces feta cheese, finely crumbed

1/2 cup mixed chopped fresh chives and dill

1 large egg

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 egg yolk, beaten with 1 teaspoon milk

For the crust: Pulse flour and cheese in a food processor. Add butter; pulse to fine crumbs. Add 5 tablespoons water; pulse until evenly moistened, add 1 to 2 tablespoons more water if needed. Transfer to waxed paper, form into a ball; flatten to a disk. Wrap and refrigerate 3 hours or overnight.

For the filling: In a large deep and heavy skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, until softened, 4 minutes. In 2 batches, add chard, tossing to mix with onion. Season with salt, add 2 tablespoons water and toss well. Reduce heat, cover and cook 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, adding more water if pan gets dry, until very tender. Transfer to medium bowl.

Add ricotta, feta, chives, dill, egg, lemon juice and ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Mix well.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

On floured board, roll dough to a 13-inch round. Fold into quarters, transfer to lined sheet. Open up and spread with filling, leaving a 2-inch border. Fold up and pleat dough around the edges. Brush dough with beaten yolk. Bake 40 to 50 minutes, until browned at the edges and crisp. Cool about 20 minutes on baking sheet. Serve.

Makes 4 servings.

— Miriam Rubin

Easiest-Ever Garlic Chard. (Miriam Rubin)

Easiest-Ever Garlic Chard

PG tested

Personalize this dish by finishing it with crumbled goat cheese, a handful of Kalamata olives, a squeeze of lemon or toasted pine nuts. Or add a drained can of cannellini beans and a little broth and warm through. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan and olive oil for fantastic beans and greens.

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 to 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

Pinch crushed red pepper flakes

1 large bunch Swiss chard, stems thinly sliced, leaves halved lengthwise, cut into 1-inch strips

Kosher salt

Add oil and garlic in large deep and heavy skillet over medium heat. Cook and stir 2 to 3 minutes, until fragrant. Add crushed red pepper.

In 2 batches, add chard, tossing to mix with garlic. Season with salt, add 2 tablespoons water and toss well. Reduce heat, cover and cook, stirring often, adding more water if pan gets dry, until chard, and especially the stems, are very tender, 8 to 12 minutes. Serve hot.

Makes 3 to 4 servings.

— Miriam Rubin


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