Cold Frame is Heaven for Swiss Chard

First, I must say that I feel like I’ve been cheating a bit with my cold frame experiment, since the weather in Chicago has been really (unseasonably) warm this October! But I am loving my cold frame anyway, as it has dipped close to 40 degrees for a few nights this month. My lettuces, beets, carrots, tat soi, arugula and chard are all doing great in our cold frame. What is new to me is how clean everything is—and no bugs to be seen! Usually my tat soi and chard has at least some little holes that bugs have eaten through, but this cold frame crop is pristine. For this posting, I want to tell you how much fun I’m having with Swiss Chard. The variety I planted is called “Rainbow Lights” and is absolutely beautiful. Here is some more information about Swiss Chard and ideas for using it in meals. It is a very nutritious and versatile cold weather green. If you aren’t growing Swiss Chard, perhaps you will be inspired! Have fun…

NUTRITION: Good source of vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, C, E and K, fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium

STORING: Refrigerate unwashed chard, wrapped in plastic, for 3 to 4 days.

PREPARATION: Both leaves and stems are edible. Wash thoroughly to remove dirt. Stems take longer to cook than leaves, so remove them before cooking. To easily chop leaves, stack several leaves and roll stack lengthwise into cylinder. Cut cylinder lengthwise in half then crosswise into pieces.

COOKING: Use stems like celery in salads and soups. Substitute leaves for spinach in most recipes. Cook stems 8 to 10 minutes; leaves 3 to 4 minutes. Steam, simmer or stir-fry until leaves are wilted and stems are tender. Water clinging to leaves after washing is often enough liquid for cooking. The volume of raw chard reduces greatly after cooking. One pound fresh chard leaves yields about 1 cup cooked chard.

QUICK IDEAS:

● Stir-fry chopped stems until just tender; add chopped leaves and minced garlic. Cook until leaves wilt. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice.

● Toss chopped fresh chard leaves into soups and stews near end of cooking time.

● Serve tender, young chard leaves raw in tossed green salads.

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