Swiss or Rainbow Chard, is one of my favourite vegetables over the winter months, not only do they provide the much needed greens required during the winter months, but the leaf stalks vibrant colours, are also visually very attractive, bringing much needed colour during the cold Autumn and Winter months.
Or do as I do, grow individual variety of seeds, to ensure you have a certain number of plants in each ‘colour’, and not relay on a ‘pot luck basis’ when growing from a Mixed pack variety, which sometimes do not contain all the different colour varieties.
5 years ago, when I first started growing Chard, called Bright Lights, this mixed pack suited me. As I become more and more involved in gardening, year on year, I have found that starting seeds from separate seed variety guarantees me the number of plants, I would like to grow, in that colour variety.
Staggering the sowing of different vegetables and flowers will ensure there are different vegetable and flowers to harvest throughout the growing season. As well as succession sowing, will provide with the same crop from spring right until first frost. Therefore, rather than succession sowing, Chard seeds will be sown later towards the end of the month of May in my gardening Calendar.. This six week (approx) delay will benefit the plants from bolting (going to seed) by early August.
Planting seeds in individual paper pots helped with less root disturbance and less washing up of plant pots too.
These Chard seedling were finally planted out in July, by the end of August, plants were about 30cm in height, and a weekly feed of homemade nettle brew, got them establishing. By early Septmeber, as the weather starts to cool down a little, that is perfect temperatures for these plants to thrive, (hot summers can dry out plants triggering the plants to bolt).
It’s November and the weather is getting much cooler. With nights bringing frost by morning, time to harvest the remaining Chard before leaves get frost bitten. Plants will lay dormant overwinter; come following Spring, soon start to show new life in them, providing a much needed green crop through the hunger gap, which, as the weather starts warming up, will cause plants to shoot flower heads bringing the end of its season. And the cycle is repeated again.
As these leaves cannot be frozen whole, I blanched some roughly chopped leaves (only chopped due to the large size leaves) squeezing excess water out before freezing (same technique used when freezing Spinach), cleaning and freezing the stalks ‘whole’ to add to the ingredients when making Vegetable or Meat stock.
With the rest I made them into a dish which commonly uses edible Colocasia Leaves. Unlike Chard or Spinach, these leaves cannot be consumed raw, and had been difficult to get hold off here in UK, until recently.
A couple of years ago, this unavailability of Colocasia leaves turned out to be a good thing, it made me think outside the box, and use Spinach and Chard in the same way as I would have used Colocasia Leaves.
6-12 large chard or spinach leaves; 1 cup chickpea flour
3/4 cup Millet flour; 1/4 Cup Rice Flour
1 heap tablespoon fresh turmeric; 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 and 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh green chillies; 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 tablespoon jaggery; 1 teaspoon tamarind paste;
and 1 teaspoon each of ground coriander seeds and Ajwain seeds (Carom seeds);
water to bind.
Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and slowly add a little water at a time until you have a thick consistency paste, but not too runny. Make the paste and allow to marinate, at least 1 hour before use.
Wash and pat dry the leaves only (cut stalks and use for making stock). Remove as much of the thick stalk from the ‘leaf part’. Put to one side.
On a large clean surface, place 1 prepared leaf with the cut side facing up (and leaf point towards you), taking a tablespoon or 2 of the paste, spread all over the leaf liberally. take the next leaf overlap it halfway, again ‘cut side’ up again but this time leaf tip away from you. Repeat this process twice more. Therefore using 6 large leaves, per Chard Roll.
Fold the sides in a little (if possible) and slowly roll, spreading a little paste on each turn, right to the end. Carefully place Chard roll on a plate .
Repeat the above process for the next 6 leaves. You can mix the colours or keep them all the same, choice is yours.
Place the roll in a well oiled steamer and steam for 30 to 40 minutes. After which press the rolls gently and they should feel firm to the touch. When firm, do not remove out of the steamer. Place the lid back on and allow to cool down completely in the steamer.
Remove and cut into 2cm thick slices, can be eaten with a little sunflower oil drizzled over or toss in tempered oil of dried chillies, mustard, cumin and sesame seeds with a few curry leaves thrown in.
These Swiss Chard slices can be served hot or cold. Makes a good addition for a savoury item, in an alternative Afternoon Tea experience High Chai. Or even, added to a picnic basket.