SPOTLIGHT Ingredient: Swiss Chard

Rainbow chard straight from my garden
While my plants are still producing beautiful leaves, I wanted to spotlight a vegetable from my garden that I feel is generally underutilized – Swiss chard. It is extremely hardy and has been thriving in my garden since I first planted in early spring! The plants were hit pretty hard with the hot and dry conditions this summer, but pulled through brilliantly. I chose to grow the rainbow variety simply for the color, but I do not find that there is a taste difference in any way from the white stemmed, which is available fresh at my local market almost year round.
Swiss chard is very versatile, and think of it as you would spinach – tender young leaves can be eaten raw, and more mature leaves should be cooked down to reduce the bitterness and to soften. A simple sauté with bacon, garlic, salt, and pepper is the perfect foolproof way to treat mature leaves that have been stemmed and thinly sliced. The mature stems themselves need a bit more cooking time to break down, so if you plan on using them, slice or chop and throw in the pan about 5 minutes before the leaves.
Since it grows so quickly, Swiss chard is a great addition to a backyard garden. For the low cost of a pack of seeds or plant from a local greenhouse, you could have readily available leaves for at least a few months, depending on planting conditions. Otherwise, fresh bundles can be found at pretty much any grocery store in the produce section. Swiss chard is fairly cheap, high in vitamins A, C, and K, rich in minerals, and high in fiber and protein. So basically, the perfect vegetable for you to sneak into your family’s dinner! Throw some thinly sliced leaves into baked mac and cheese, in pasta sauce, or even on top of a pizza – get creative with dinner tonight!

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