By Jennifer Banks-Doll
Tis the season of spring greens!
On our fledgling farm on Quadra Island we try to avoid store bought produce and eat only the veggies and fruit we grow, with a few trades with other local gardeners thrown in for good measure. It’s a fun challenge and a great way to become more aware of all of the wonderful things you can eat from your garden at different times of year.
With the month of May coming to an end, last year’s potatoes, onions, leeks, and carrots have dwindled, this year’s peas are not quite ready, and I am not on the ball enough to have mastered winter brassicas yet, so greens it is!. Our current veggies in the garden consist of the leafy variety: kale, spinach, arugula, mizuna, mache, chickweed, lamb’s ear, and….swiss chard!
Swiss chard is a vegetable we never used to buy or grow when we lived in the city. My mother-in-law grew it in her garden but she had to dress up with cheese and bacon before my husband and his dad would eat it. It “lacked flavour, was bitter, was woody”…so many excuses not to eat it!
When I started gardening on Quadra I was reluctant to use precious garden space to plant chard. Would we actually eat it?! I think I planted one small row of it the first year. That summer, truth be told, we didn’t eat much of it as the competition was fierce with more appealing veggies. In the fall, we transferred a few cold loving plants to our high tunnel as an experiment to see what would survive the winter. This included celery, broccoli, kale, and chard. By spring the broccoli was brown, the kale was covered in aphids, the celery was mostly leaves, but there was the Swiss Chard from last year, putting out fresh leaves, and looking so colourful and….tasty? I started picking it regularly and discovered it was good in salads and stirfrys, raw and cooked. And grew so fast and well!
Now I plant chard year round and it sustains us through the “hunger gap” of spring, growing under cover in our high tunnel. It grows quickly and without much pest pressure, though when a chicken breached the tunnel it devoured a few of my plants. However, in a few weeks they were fully leafed out again!
Right now my winter swiss chard is bolting. Instead of pulling it, I eyed those ruby stalks and wondered, can I cook with those? Will they be woody? Or a nice crunchy alternative to greens, greens, and more greens?!
I looked for recipes and finding none, I decided to invent one.
Bolting Chard and Rice Pie
- Oil or lard
- A bunch of newly bolted swiss chard – leaves and stalks
- Pepper and Chilli Flakes to taste
- 8 eggs
- 3/4 cup milk
- Fresh or dried herbs (e.g. thyme, oregano, basil)
- 1 chive flower and a few chive leaves
- Salt to taste
- 1 cup leftover rice
- 1 cup cheese (optional)
I fried up the chard stalks in a cast iron skillet with some black pepper and chili flakes (being out of onions and garlic right now) and tasted them. They were tender and juicy and full of flavour. Yum!
I added a ton of Swiss Chard leaves and wilted them a bit.
Then I mixed up a big bowl of eggs, milk, fresh thyme, chives and chive flowers (an onion substitute?), salt, more pepper, and leftover rice, and poured it on top of the greens. Some grated cheese and more thyme on top and in the oven it went.
I baked it at 375 F until set and served it with….a big salad of course! Voila, lunch!
Jennifer and her family are building soil, growing food, and regenerating the land on Foot Forward Forest Farm on Quadra Island.