In Season: Swiss Chard

Whether you're a CSA devotee, a farmers' market weekender or consider ketchup a veg, we'll teach you everything there is to know about local produce in our weekly series, In Season. 

Today's harvest: Swiss Chard

Swiss chard needs a new name. It makes me think of swiss cheese, and it's definitely not cheese. It's not Swiss, either. And chard just doesn't sound like a good word. Strange name but probably my absolute favorite green of them all. It's so strikingly pretty, it has a super sweet crunch, has a lovely leafy texture and floats around your recipe box beautifully where something green is beckoned.

My dears, this is your gateway green. If you've ever wrinkled your nose at greens in general, this is the way to get into it.

Recipes to make you drool after the jump

Tell me more about swiss chard: Swiss Chard is mediterranean in origin and was mentioned in writings by Aristotle in the fourth century B.C.. Chard got its current name from another Mediterranean vegetable, cardoon, a celery-like plant with thick stalks that resemble those of chard. The French somehow got all confused and called them both "carde." Other aliases: chard, white beet, strawberry spinach, seakale beet, leaf beet, Sicilian beet, spinach beet, Chilian beet, Roman kale, and silverbeet. Or you could just call it deliciously awesome. Nutrition notes: Swiss Chard rocks if you're looking to add some vitamin K to your diet. However, while Swiss chard is so beauteous and nutritous, it is among a few foods that contain oxalates. It's naturally occuring substance but when oxalates become too concentrated in body fluids, they can crystallize and cause health problems. Darn. So if you have galbladder or kidney problems, don't eat it. Sorry.

When is swiss chard in season?
Loosely, October through June

How do I eat it?
You could eat it raw (you've seen baby swiss chard with the red veins in your mesclun salad mixes) or it's more commonly cooked. You're going to absolutely adore these cooked chard recipes below.

Selecting and storage tips: Pick up some proud looking bunches that don't look dried out. When you get them home, you could wash and store them in a plastic bag in the fridge. I would probably keep them in that bag, but don't wash them until you're ready to eat. Farmer Frank tells me that produce has it's own top protective layer of "skin" and if it gets scratched or "washed" off, the shelf life of the food can be reduced significantly.

Run out and make these recipes:
Usually I try to share with you a variety of recipes from a variety of sources but I think the food blog Smitten Kitchen has knocked it out of the ballpark. All of Deb's swiss chard recipes look completely awesome. She's also writing a cookbook, due sometime in 2012. Pick any of these and be happy. This first one, though, is calling my name. Have you seen Portlandia's Put a Bird On It? Hilarious! This recipe makes me think "put an egg on it." I think I can add "top with egg" to my list of what to do with any vegetable and make it delicious, like I mentioned in my radish post. Truer words have never been spoken.

Jennifer Woods is a local food advocate with over 10 years working in the AZ food industry, and currently works for Crooked Sky Farms, a CSA produce farm based in South Phoenix.

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