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Add Swiss Chard to Your Grocery List

Color, color everywhere!  At least at your farmers’ market.  Each month in summer your market has a freshly-picked bounty, just waiting for your arrival.  June brings luscious, red strawberries, crisp green beans, and many dark, leafy greens, like spinach and kale.  July brings summer squash, early sweet corn, plump blueberries…  August is truly the best month to hit the farmers’ market because the stalls are over-flowing with color – firm, deep-purple eggplants, sweet red raspberries and blackberries, tiny yellow grape tomatoes, crisp green cucumbers…  and finally that which I await all summer – ripe, red, juicy tomatoes.  We always buy a plant or two that promise  early tomatoes for our mini-garden.  However, they never seem to come early enough.  Pick up a loaf of crusty bread, a jar of Hellman’s mayo, a bunch of your favorite lettuce (hopefully not iceberg), and a few just-off-the-vine tomatoes.  A more delicious sandwich would be difficult to find.

All of those amazing colors have something in common – phytonutrients.  Fruits and vegetables are concentrated sources of phytonutrients.  Many but not all phytonutrients give fruits and vegetables their deep colors, such as blueberries, blackberries, carrots, winter squash, broccoli, melon, tomatoes, watermelon, spinach, kale and Swiss chard.  There are others, not as rich in color, that also contain phytonutients – garlic, onions, and leeks.  Phytonutrients are believed to protect against certain cancers, heart disease, stroke, inflammation, and high blood pressure.  They boost the immune system and generally promote good health.  A variety of vegetables and fruits, with varied colors, should be included daily.

Swiss chard belongs to a group of vegetables called chenopods.  Beets, spinach, and quinoa are included in this group.  Chard has a great variety of phytonutients, as shown by the vibrant colors – dark green leaves with veins and stems of reds, purples, and yellows.  Chard seems to help regulate blood sugar.  It is an excellent source of vitamins K, C, and E.  It also counteracts inflammation and offers a good supply of calcium that supports bone health.  It is available all year, but is at its best in the summer months.

Tips

  • Look for leaves that are deep green without wilting, browning or yellowing.
  • At the supermarket it should be kept in a chilled area.
  • Don’t wash before storing in the refrigerator in a plastic bag.  It keeps up to five days, but try to use it within a day or two of purchase.
  • The leaves can be blanched, refreshed in ice water and frozen for later use.

The following is one of many delectable ways to prepare Swiss chard.  The raisins are a sweet counterpoint to the slightly tart taste of chard.  The pine nuts add texture, and the balsamic vinegar adds a depth of flavor.  This recipe, originally from Martha Stewart, has my usual tweaks.  Yes, that yummy recipe for salmon will be in my next post!

Sautéed Swiss Chard with Raisins and Pine Nuts

  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 bunch of Swiss chard
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 2 minced cloves of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  1.  Wash chard well and pat dry with a towel. Trim stems from leaves and remove thicker ribs from larger leaves.  Cut these into 1/2-inch pieces.  Cut leaves across into 1-inch slices.
  2. In a large skillet with a lid, toast pine nuts over medium heat to brown a bit, 2 – 4 minutes.  Remove from pan and set aside.
  3. In the same skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Add stems, cover and sauté about 4 minutes.  Add just a bit of olive oil near edge of pan and add the garlic.  Sauté briefly for a minute.  Add chard and raisins and quickly mix all in pan.  Cover pan and reduce heat to medium-low.  Cook until tender, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. If necessary, tip pan with lid pulled back to drain excess water.  Stir in vinegar and pine nuts and season with salt and pepper to taste.

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