Friday, July 27, 2012

Rainbow Chard- Spreading the love

Chard evokes memories for me, of days spent with our friends in Ithaca, watching their garden grow and enjoying its bounty. My then boyfriend, now husband and I made the 1.5 hour trek from Rochester throughout 1999 until 2008 at least a few times a year to see our friends. As I type those dates, it amazes me that it was 10 years! My husband took the photo above in September of 2006, when Todd and Melissa had over an acre of homegrown veggies and berries. Bright, crisp, slightly bitter chard makes me think of those visits and smile.

Since our arrival in the Netherlands, I've not seen chard for sale- either at the local stores or the outdoor markets. In fact, when I've asked for it people often think I mean rhubarb. Chard is much smaller than rhubarb, which is a lovely veggie in its own right, but rhubarb has poisonous leaves. Don't confuse these two! Chard has green stems, red stems, or even yellow-white stems. The leaves are green and if you click on this link to the wikipedia chard entry you'll discover it is one of the healthiest veggies.

On Sunday, on a bike ride home from Eindhoven everything changed: the Genneper Park farm shop had chard, nestled among the carrots and other leafy greens. I do not even know what I paid for it, I was so rushed to grab it by the handful.
I've tried to explain chard to my Dutch friends, even pointing it out in our community gardens a couple of times (and resisting the urge to hop the fence and swipe some) verifying that indeed it does grow here. The Dutch name doesn't help much: snijbiet (snij = cutting and biet = beet).  Nope, unless you've tasted it, it doesn't seem to matter much (like acorn squash- which I also miss!)

On Sunday, we had chard for dinner, and here is how I made it with thanks to Todd and Melissa for showing me how many years ago:

Prepare a bunch of chard by rinsing thoroughly. Trim any brown bits off leaves or stems. Carefully cut away the leaves, and chop roughly. Don't try to dry the leaves, they should be damp when you cook them, the water adds steam to the cooking.
Chop the stems like you would celery, trying to keep them all about the same size. (Make the thinner portion pieces a bit longer than the thick portion pieces).
Place  the leaves in one bowl and stems in another and begin heating 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large saute pan on medium heat. Reduce to med-low and add the stems, cooking for about 5 minutes (they should still be quite firm).
Add the leaves and cook on low another 5 to 8 minutes more, stirring throughout. When the mixture looks a bit like this:
The chard stems should be slightly tender and the leaves much reduced in size. Add a splash(about a tablespoon, or to taste) of vinegar (any kind of flavored vinegar will do- raspberry is a good choice but if you have access to ume plum vinegar, you are in for a real treat!), stir to combine and serve immediately.

We ate this for dinner, no sides (we'd had a big lunch) and savored every bite. Normally I would serve this as a side dish but since it has been over three years since we'd had it, we had to elevate it to the main event on Sunday. I cooked it the day I bought it, but if you must keep it for a day or two, it can be stored like leafy greens: slightly dampen a paper towel, wrap the chard loosely, and then put in a plastic bag in your veggie drawer of the fridge.

Dutch friends, please, try chard and discover its complex love affair. Demand your local AH carry it, so all of us can enjoy this fabulous healthy vegetable.


  1. "snijbiet"! Good to know. Thanks for sharing!

  2. If only I had known! Just last weekend I ripped all the chard out of our allotment - I had no idea that they'd be so incredibly productive and we were getting sick of eating chard and feta pie each weekend.

  3. Oh Anrie! Chard and feta pie sounds delightful to me, but I can imagine, too much of anything is not so good. If you have a source for next year let me know and perhaps I'll plant some!

  4. I plant them from seed - will give you some when my order for next year comes in round December/January. Just watch out - they can get really monstrous (bigger than my daugter!).

  5. I wonder if you can toast chard in the oven like kale and make chard chips?