I harvest it by grabbing a bunch and cutting it off near the base. More will grow back.
Then you need to wash it. By the way, this is more difficult than you may think. The dirt likes to stick in the celery-like stalks and cling to the leaves. Even after a couple soaks in cold water, I find myself scrubbing at the stalks with a potato scrubber, and using my fingers to get final grains of dirt off the leaves. To do this for each leave is a bit time-consuming. So do the best you can.
At this point, a more particular cook would advocate separating the entire stalk from the leaf. However, since I'm not that particular, I just cut off the bottom part of the stalk and throw it into a pile. You can choose to chop off the stalks and cook them first, since they take longer to cook than the leaves, OR you can give them to your pigs and chickens, OR you can compost them. (And actually, I'm not even THAT particular anymore... I just chop it all up and throw it in the pan!)
There are several options for the cook at this point.
- Freezing. I throw in as many leaves (wet from their wash) as will fit into my 5-qt. cooking pot and let them wilt till about 1/3 of their size, about 2-3 minutes. Then I throw them in a pan to cool off. I measure some into freezer baggies, and into the freezer they go. I'll plan to use them in egg bakes, quiches, and other hot-dish type entrees.
- Frying. I heat up butter or coconut oil or, our favorite as of late, palm oil, in a frying pan and cook chopped onions, garlic, and some chard stalks if you like. When those are softened, fill your pan with chopped swiss chard leaves. And fry it like you mean it. It's best when leaves are partly crispy. Don't forget to add salt and pepper. I really like the palm oil... mainly because of it's strong flavor. It covers up the swiss chard flavor... ;-) But if you're not used to the flavor, it may be a bit off-putting. Butter's always good. And don't skimp on the grease!
- Baking. Okay, this one's a bit weird. Recipe for Swiss chard chips. Yeah, you bake the leaves. Basically just toss leaves with olive oil and salt and pepper and bake. One thing I learned with this... the leaves MUST be quite dry before baking, otherwise they just wilt and are limp. Gross. My boys enjoyed the chips, and kept coming back for more. "More crunchy, Mom!" "Thanks for the crunchy, Mom!" It's fun for something different. Also, it's best to eat it all in one sitting... the chips don't keep well in my experience.
Here's my oven, original from the 1960s... timer doesn't work, though.
- Substitution for spinach. Basically any type of dish you'd use spinach, I am pretty sure you could use swiss chard.
- Hotdishes, quiches, sautes, salads, etc. Swiss chard is easily added in to these types of dishes.
- Whatever your creative mind can come up with! I'm sure there are more ideas than these, but this is the extent of my creativity and willingness to experiment. I'm not quite brave enough to make "green smoothies" that you add veggies to.
Dry the leaves well!
I put parchment paper on the pan before putting on the chard.
My taste testers... what is this?
We'll probably plant it again next year. But maybe not quite so much..... that stuff is prolific!