Here we are in mid November and there’s still some harvesting to be done. Been getting some cold nights; several overnight lows in the 20s. We know from experience that although some greens can take the cold, it’s best to harvest as much as possible before the severe cold arrives.
We love Swiss Chard because it’s so easy to grow. Though more closely related to beets, the flavor is much like spinach but the leaves are much more robust. They’ll produce delicious leaves all through summer and almost till the snow flies. However, the leaves won’t do very well when the temperature stays below freezing. That’s why we thought we’d better get with the program and pick the Swiss Chard today. I knew the harvest would be pretty good so I lined my contractor sized wheelbarrow with an old bed sheet and started picking. I got about 14 pounds.
To harvest, I carefully peel away the stem from the base of the plant. Takes practice to do this without damaging the roots. If I sense there’s too much resistance, I simply cut the stem as close the plant as I can. Any dead or dying leaves or stems are removed first and tossed in the compost. I leave a few leaves in the middle just in case we get warm enough weather to have more growth. Also, after I’m done trimming the plants down; I mulch them around the stem with leaves to protect the root system. I’ll leave the small center leaves exposed until the real cold comes; again just in case it’s warm enough to get another fresh harvest. If the plant covered completely before the snow flies, they will winter over and make new growth in the spring.
If allowed to grow the 2nd season they will go to seed. This year’s harvest came from seed I saved from two years ago. I found out the hard way that when Swiss chard is allowed to seed, it needs LOTS of room!!
After picking I bring them inside, and blanch them in boiling water for about 15 – 20 seconds; after which they are dumped into a cold water bath. For the boiling water we use a large Revere Ware pot; inside of which is a large stainless steel colander we got from IKEA. I chop up a large handful of greens and toss them into the colander, then take a wooden spoon and stir them into the boiling water for a few seconds.
After blanching I drain water from the colander back into the pot, then toss the greens into a large enamel pot full of cold water. The pot’s almost as big as our kitchen sink. Final stage is to scoop the greens out of the cold water bath; drain, and put in gallon freezer bags. It’s important to keep the water cold so we end up dumping it a couple times after the water warms up. Then we fill the pot with cold water again and carry on.
Today’s harvest yielded 6 gallon bags of Swiss chard for the freezer. We’ll continue to eat fresh leaves until the weather changes; after that it’s time to raid the freezer.
Dunno about you but we think Swiss Chard leaves are simply beautiful. Click on the thumbnail pictures below for better views.