Swiss chard is not a particularly well-known leafy green in the United States, though it is very popular in the Mediterranean region. It can be eaten raw, sautéed, or otherwise prepared much as you would prepare spinach. In fact, Swiss chard actually goes by the name "spinach" in South Africa. It's relatively easy to grow in most parts of the United States, and it's easy to wind up with more than you can easily eat. Fortunately, it's easy to blanch and freeze both stems and leaves to enjoy later in the year.
About Swiss Chard
Like all dark green leafy greens, Swiss chard is low in calories and high in nutritional value. It's high in antioxidants and B vitamins and is a good source of vitamin K, omega-3 fats, and vitamin A.
The flavor of Swiss chard is spinach-like, but a little sweeter. It looks beautiful in the garden, too. especially the "Five Color Silverbeet," with orange, magenta, yellow and white stalks that look amazing. It's also quite easy to grow. If you just keep harvesting the outer stalks, and not the entire plant, new stalks will keep forming at the center of the plant. It doesn't bolt in summer's heat, which is a bonus for those who love leafy greens. It also withstands frost fairly well, which means you can often keep harvesting chard well into November.
Swiss chard is best fresh, but it can be frozen for up to a year if it's properly prepared. Here is how to preserve Swiss chard:
Equipment / Tools
- Large bowl
- Straw (optional)
- Freezer bags or other freezer-safe containers
Wash the Chard
Wash the chard well.
Separate Stalks From Leaves
Separate the stalks from the leaves. This makes it more convenient when you're cooking the chard later since the stalks take longer to cook than the leaves. Also, sometimes you'll only want to use one or the other in a recipe, not both.
Prepare Boiling and Ice Waters
Bring a pot of water to a boil and fill a bowl with ice water.
Place Swiss Chard in Boiling Water
Put the Swiss chard in the pot of boiling water. If you have a large batch to boil, do it in sections to ensure that the greens retain their fresh flavor after freezing. A good ratio is four cups of packed greens to a gallon of boiling water. Blanch (boil) Swiss chard stalks for two minutes and the leaves for one minute.
After putting Swiss chard in the boiling water, watch for the water to begin to boil again. Then, start the timer for either one or two minutes (depending on if you are blanching leaves or stalks).
Plunge Chard in Ice Water
Place them in the ice water immediately after blanching to stop the cooking process.
Drain the Swiss chard well and shake off the excess water.
Prepare for Freezer
Put the stalks and leaves in separate freezer bags or other freezer-safe containers. Remove as much air from the bag as possible. You may want to use vacuum-sealed bags or, if those are unavailable, you can actually suck the air out of a ziplock bag. To do this, zip the top of the bag closed except for enough space to insert a straw. Then suck the air out as best as you can. Press the straw closed so it can be removed without letting more air inside. That will help maintain quality and prevent freezer burn.
Freeze for six months to a year.
This is an easy way to make sure you are able to use all of the delicious Swiss chard growing in your garden whenever you want. It freezes long enough so you can have it until the next growing season.