Swiss Chard is a nutrient rich dark leafy green vegetable. It is quite a hardy garden crop and comes in both a red stalk and a white stalk variety. Both of the Swiss Chard varieties are high in nutrients and low in calories. You can generally enjoy Swiss Chard for quite a lengthy growing season.
It can be harvested throughout the summer months by picking the larger leaves for individual meals and allowing the smaller leaves to continue growing till the final harvest. Using this method you can have quite a large harvest of this nutritious leafy vegetable. The main crop in late fall is still very bountiful and can be blanched and put in the freezer for meals throughout the winter.
When storing freezer food for future use it is important to blanch vegetables so they maintain a maximum amount of nutrition, color, and flavor. Blanching locks all that wonderful goodness inside and helps to preserve it there till that food product reaches your table. Whether your vegetables come to you from the garden or from the grocery store they require appropriate care and cooking to insure their flavor and health benefits.
The Fall Harvest is Bountiful and a Busy Time in my Home
We begin snipping the leaves on our Swiss Chard plants for individual meals practically as soon as the plant begins to mature. The plants continue to produce in abundance. Our main harvest of Swiss Chard is generally in late September or early October.
It is one of the last vegetables to be harvested from our garden and harvested about the same time as beets which are a root vegetable so able to withstand frost well into their growing season.
If you are growing Swiss Chard you will quickly learn that it can be quite an abundant crop. Generally two to three short rows gives us plenty of this dark green leafy vegetable in the freezer to last us through the winter months and well into mid summer.
Below you will find step by step instructions for blanching Swiss Chard. I still use just a large pot and ice water in the sink to prepare my vegetables for the freezer but a blanching pot definitely does make the job a lot easier. It is on my wish list.
Items You Will Need for the Blanching Process
Blanching Pots are Designed to Make the Process Easier
A blanching pot allows you to easily lift your vegetables out of the pot to deposit in ice water for cooling. A blancher really helps to increase the ease of preparing vegetables for the freezer. They are generally not expensive and as they last practically forever they so very worth the investment.
Wash the Leaves. Cut Off and Separate the Stems
Stems and Leaves Should be Blanched Separately
Ready for the Next Step: Blanching
It is important to separate your leaves and stems for blanching as the stems will take longer to cook than do the leaves. Swiss Chard leaves take about two minutes to blanch while the stems take three to four minutes time to cook before they are ready to be frozen.
As I clean my chard I snip off the stems and chop them into small pieces about 1 inch in length. These I place in a bowl of cold water next to where I am cleaning my leaves.
You will quickly notice that Swiss Chard is quite a bulky vegetable and the washed produce can take up quite a lot of space in your work area. Be sure to have large bowls or bins handy to put your washed vegetable in.
Pests are Promptly Disposed of. Sorry Slug no Second Chance.
Fill Your Pot or Blancher With Water and Bring to a Boil
Quickly Cool Your Blanched Vegetables in Ice Water
Blanching is a very important process in freezer food storage preparation. By boiling the vegetables for a specific time, and then quickly cooking them, there will be a minimal loss of color, nutrients, flavor, and texture.
Swiss Chard is like spinach and will quickly shrink down in cooking. So load the pot full and tap the leaves down with a large spoon.
Remember to cook your leaves and stems in separate lots. Boil your your leaf for two minutes each pot and stems for three to four minutes each pot.
Fill your sink with cold water and ice cubes ready to put your vegetable in when they are finished blanching. As soon as the two minutes blanching time is up submerse your Swiss Chard so it cools quickly. If vegetables remain hot the cooking process will continue till they cool.
Drain and Squeeze Excess Moisture Out. Bag Leaf When Cool.
Use Small Containers or Plastic Bags for Freezing
Use a straw to help pull any excess air out of your bags as you close them. This will help to prevent freezer burn.
I fill my bags about 3/4 full of leaf and 1/4 full of stem. Because the leaf packs down so much during cooking I wind up with quite a bit of leftover stem which is actually a good thing.
I then do up small packages of the chopped stem which will later be used in homemade soups and stews.
The stems cook up nicely in these simmering dishes and wind up being much like celery would be when added into these slow cooking meals.
Dark Leafy Green Vegetables are Good for You
The Autumn Harvest Can be a Very Exciting Time of Year
The leaves are changing colors and the fruit and vegetables are ripe and ready to be harvested. I always feel a bit like old mother Hubbard stocking my cupboards at this time of year.
Our garden area is actually quite small but it gives us an abundance of fresh organic vegetables as well. We have raspberry bushes and fruit trees scattered throughout our backyard and they supply us with quite a bounty of fresh organic food.
We have never used pesticides or fertilizers on our garden yet our vegetable produce each autumn is a bountiful blessing. I compost our vegetable waste back into the garden and it provides it with nutrients.
The trees in our yard attract birds and they eat a tremendous amount of insects and bugs. They chow down on a few cherries too but we are willing to share. Our relationship with them is a mutually friendly one as they help to keep pests down and this allows us to keep our fruit and vegetables organic.
Virtually Anyone can Garden. It Does Not Take Much Space.
Plants are wonderfully decorative in the home so why not plant one that gives you a viable food source as well. An indoor garden really does not have to take up much space in the home.
The nicest aspect of gardening your own herbs or vegetables is that it can be done in very small places. Even those individuals who live in apartments can maintain their own small harvest of fresh organic produce.
Herb gardens are excellent mini gardens for growing indoors. They do not take up much space and you can remove small snips to add into your evening meals as the plants continue to grow.
Grow a Green Thumb Today. Herbs are Easily Grown Indoors.
A herb or vegetable garden can be created in a pot or planter in front of any window. A planter box is all that is needed for you to plant and grow fresh herbs all year round. Then a simple snip and you have fresh herbs or spices to add into your meals.
Plants will grow in virtually any small patch of dirt, planter, or pot that you put them in. A herb garden does not take up much space at all. A planter box filled with a variety of lettuce will also grow quite readily if placed in a sunny location.
If you are in an apartment then a pot or long planter box can be set near a window. If you have a patio or balcony on your apartment then outdoor window or deck boxes can be used for containing your small garden patch. There are also smaller indoor or patio fruit trees which are excellent for city dwellers as well.
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