QUESTION: I’ve planted Swiss chard in my garden and it’s almost ready to harvest. How do you clean and cook Swiss chard? -Tammi S.
ANSWER: To clean your homegrown Swiss chard, you can either soak the leaves for a while before washing them or simply rinse under running water while washing the leaves well. To soak, fill a large bowl with cool water, or use the stopper of your sink to fill up the basin. Let the leaves soak for at least 10 minutes before you begin washing them. Clean each leaf one at a time, making sure to get into the crevices and crannies of the stems and leaves that can hold dirt, insects, and other garden debris. Be gentle while cleaning your Swiss chard so you don’t damage or bruise the leaves.
While you’re washing the leaves is a good time to cut the stems away from the leaves and separate them. Chop the leaves as directed by your recipe instructions. The stems are edible—Swiss chard’s stems are more tender than some other greens that have inedible stems—but in many preparations, the stems take longer to cook than the leaves. Some dishes call for just the stems or just the leaves, while others use both the stems and the leaves together.
Swiss chard can be eaten raw in salads and slaws or used as a filling for sandwiches, wraps, and pitas. The raw or blanched leaves can be used whole to contain other ingredients in the style of a burrito or wrap. Chard leaves that have been put through the food processor can be used as an ingredient in smoothies, pesto, or dips and spreads such as hummus.
There are a variety of ways to cook Swiss chard, too. The preparation people are likely to be most familiar with is a braise, as in Southern-style greens where the leaves are chopped and cooked low and slow, with fatty meat as seasoning. They can also be added to stir-fries, soups, pastas, or served au gratin.