I have to say that Swiss Chard, or Silverbeet, as we knew it, was not a favourite vegetable of mine when I was a child. However, tastes change and more importantly cooking methods and an introduction to international cuisine has definitely changed that!
We all know Swiss Chard as a vegetable, and it really is such a great addition to any vegie patch as it is easy to grow and continues to produce for many months. But as I began traveling to France, I was to discover it’s value, in particular the coloured varieties, as an ornamental in flower gardens. The Luxembourg Gardens in Paris, is the first place I think of when reminiscing about such beautiful displays. As I walked through the gates for the first time, my eyes were automatically drawn toward a stunning vision of rich reds and greens. I had never seen Swiss Chard used in such displays before.
You probably realize that Swiss Chard now has an important place in our vegie patch and in our meals, and as the flower garden is developed, I also hope to use it as a feature plant there too. Over the next several days, I hope to introduce you to some new ways to use Swiss Chard and make it star in meals you prepare. With the first recipe of this series being an old favourite – Weed Pies
- 1 quantity of Savoury Potato Pastry
- 350 g mixed greens (refer to note below)
- 1 small onion
- 1 tbs olive oil
- 150g dry ricotta or feta
- 30g grated parmesan
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 tbs dried oregano
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 egg beaten (for egg wash)
- Rinse the greens and remove any yellow or damaged leaves.
- Finely chop the onion and any stems, and then finely slice the leaves, keeping separate
- Heat the oil in a pan and add the onion and stems, sauté until soft, then add the leaves and put the lid on the pan and cook until the leaves have all wilted. Set aside to cool. Drain off any liquid.
- Preheat oven to 200˚C (Fan forced).
- Combine the cooled greens with the cheeses, eggs and oregano, and season with salt and pepper.
- Lightly grease the pie tin(s).
- Roll out the pastry between two sheets of baking, paper, and line the pie tin(s).
- Leave to rest in the fridge for 20 minutes, before filling.
- Cover with pastry, make a little hole to allow steam to escape, brush with egg wash and bake 25 minutes, until golden.
- For your wild greens, use a combination of dandelion, mustard, chickweed, rocket, wild fennel, beetroot tops, turnip tops, silverbeet or rainbow chard. You could also add some fresh herbs if you want.
For those new to gardening or who would like to try and grow a few plants, I have also included a little information which may be of use.
Description – Swiss chard, which some people mistake for spinach, is actually a member of the beetroot family. The ribbed stems come in a variety of colours, white (the most common) yellow, orange, pink and red (rainbow chard) and a very deep red (ruby chard). The stems support large crinkly deep green leaves and both the stalks and the leaves are edible. The green leaves are normally separated from the stalks when being prepared for cooking, as the rich green leaves require much less time to cook than the stalks.
Growing – You can either purchase seedlings, or grow your own from seed. Seedlings can be planted from early spring to Autumn in the temperate and colder areas, and all year around in the tropics. Swiss chard needs full sun and prefers well drained soil that has been prepared with compost and well-rotted animal manure. We use a combination of horse and sheep manure along with compost, in our garden. Why a combination of the horse and sheep manures – it is what my Uncle Paul recommended, so it’s what I do. A fortnightly feed of liquid fertilizer will also ensure a ready supply. For those without a vegie patch, I have successfully grown Swiss Chard in pots so if you are restricted to a balcony or a courtyard you can grow it too.
Harvesting – To harvest Swiss Chard, pick the larger leaves from the outside of the plant, simply by breaking the stalks downwards and sideways at the same time. Harvest regularly, but leave 4 or 5 leaves on the plant. The plants will keep producing and keep you supplied with this wonderful green all season, so no need to plant again until next season.
Uses – Soups, sides, omelettes, gratins, pasta dishes…
Until next time…
Happy Gardening & Bon appétit!
- Swiss Chard, or Silverbeet
- Weed Pies
- Savoury Potato Pastry
- Chard, Chicken and Potato Soup
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