A few words on my current favorite.
The farmstand reopened a few weeks ago. I’ve had the new pleasure of seeing the greens come in. First came the spinach, followed closely by arugula, broccoli raab, beet greens, and chard. I’ve made it a point to buy these as they are offered, especially since the stand has been harvesting young specimens. They are more tender, mild, and less vegetal tasting than the older versions. The beet greens have especially been a revelation.
Beets and chard are closely related. They are both members of the species Beta vulgaris. Beet plants have been selected for their taproots, i.e. the red bulbs with which we’re all familiar. Chard has been selected for their greens. No wonder cookbooks often remind us that beet greens, in addition to beetroot, are edible. That being said, I find that the tops to supermarket beets are generally too beat up to make preparing the greens worth it. It’s been nice to find usable better specimens this year.
Lately our farmstand has been selling both chard and beet greens. The chard looks familiar. The beet greens are different, as in the taproots are tiny compared to what I’m used to. I wonder why they cultivate the greens in these different ways.
Either way, I’ve been enjoying both varieties as they come in. To my palate, chard and beet greens distinguish themselves among other leafy greens with a soft mineral note. To my wife’s palate, mineral isn’t the word. Whatever the exact word is for those aromas, they are extremely pleasant. I’ll be picking these up consistently while they are in season.
Cooked chard or beet greens
- Bunch chard or beet greens
- Olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- Kosher salt
- Freshly squeezed lemon juice (optional)
- Trim off the roots. (Not sure if these are edible. I’ll have eaten my test roast batch of these after this post has gone up.) Soak the greens to loosen the dirt and wash in as many changes of water as necessary to remove dirt, grit, insects, etc. Remove the excess water in a salad spinner (preferred) or with some other tool.
- Roughly chop the greens, including the stems. The longer you plan on cooking the greens, the rougher the chop can be. The younger the greens, the rougher the chop can be. (In fact, the baby beet greens I got a few weeks ago I basically cooked whole, save for the roots. The leaves wilted down and the stems resembled a noodle. We actually twirled them up on our forks as if they were long pasta noodles that night.)
- Toast the garlic in the olive oil. Add the greens and cook down as desired. The younger and more in season your greens are, the less time it will take for them to become tender. In the spring I like to cook these quickly. In the fall, I prefer a longer cook.
- Correct seasoning with salt (and, optionally, lemon). Serve or reserve for later use.
Pasta and chard
I use the pasta to extend the greens into a sufficiently large side, as the bunch I get at the farmstand is small relative to our appetite for it. (I opt for variety over volume. This is the first year I’ll observe their harvest from the beginning to the end of the growing season.) The olive oil carries the chard aroma throughout the dish.
Other sources suggest seasoning the dish with bacon or pork. Though heavy for this time of year, such recipes seem worth trying, at least when the larger, tougher specimens come in.
I eyeball the pasta-to-chard ratio. The focus of my attention is on making sure there isn’t too much pasta.
- 1 portion cooked chard
- Dried pasta
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Cook the pasta in salted water. While the water cooks, heat the chard in another pan with a few tablespoons olive oil.
- When the pasta is almost cooked, spoon it into the pan with the chard. Stir, mount with pat or two of butter, and thin with pasta water as necessary. The water clinging to the pasta as it’s added to the pan — e.g. lifted from the pasta pot to the chard pan with a spider — may be sufficient.