Swiss Chard – The Garden Unicorn

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By Jen

Tinned spinach is not the most appetising way to get Popeye superpowers.  But there’s an alternative.  So easy to grow you do practically nothing.  Rainbow-coloured.  And with a share of recommended daily allowances that puts most foods to shame.  It’s chard.  We’d never grown, or cooked, or eaten chard until a couple of years ago.  It was a mystery vegetable until friends left some seeds for us. Thanks Monique and Remmy.

Here’s what it looks like.


This is the multicoloured version.

I kind of knew it was good for you but wasn’t sure why.  Like the Eddie Izzard sketch on vitamins:  “Yeah, so… and all these fruits have got vitamins – vitamin A, of course, which is good for (blamumblebla), vitamin B, which we all know is very good for (mumblebla), vitamin C is good for scurvy, isn’t it? Yes! There’s a lot of scurvy around these days…”

Here’s a better explanation.  Chard regulates blood sugar (good for everyone but especially diabetics), is anti-inflammatory (good for arthritis), it’s so bursting with anti-oxidants that they have a job all fitting in (anti-oxidants are constantly battling those scary free radicles in our body – but we don’t manufacture enough of them to keep the fight fair so we have to eat them) and it helps strengthen your bones. It’s one of the top good-for-you vegetables.   I’m only scratching the surface of the list.  Here’s more info if your kids ask what Vitamin K is for.  A cup of chard has more than 600 times the recommended daily intake, that I know off by heart.

We stumbled upon a recipe for cheesy chard gratin, and haven’t really ventured further because it’s so nice.  Jamie Oliver is apparently big into chard too if you want something different.

This one has only a few ingredients, and takes half an hour in the oven.

This much chard.....

This much chard…..

Cooking chard

…makes this much ready for cooking (scraps at the front, good leaves at the right)

Plus Parmesan, whatever other cheese is around, cream and mustard.  Cook the stalks for 3-4 minutes in boiling water till soft and add the leaves at the end just till they wilt.  Butter an oven dish. Mix the chard up with the other ingredients.  Put it in the dish.  Put it in the oven for half an hour.

And it’s ready.  The cheese browns on top and it’s lovely with crusty bread to soak up the creamy sauce.  Waaaaay nicer than tinned spinach.

With just a few plants growing, you get enough for a family meal a week. It keeps growing as you pull off the stalks, like rhubarb. It’s got a slot in the garden for next year, already reserved.

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