Swiss Chard – The First Harvest

Thursday night we harvested the first edible (besides stealing a few herbs) from this season’s Apartment Farm – the swiss chard. I made a pork pie for dinner (I’m still tweaking the recipe, but it’s a good one so I’ll post it as soon as I’ve got it fully developed), and as a side dish we had some of our chard. Here’s a picture of it ready to go –

It’s a modest sized portion, especially considering that greens wilt down quite a bit when cooked, but it was enough for good-sized servings for the two of us, with a little to top of lunch leftovers. Here’s a picture of the plants post-harvest –

Still looking robust with more to give. This is the first season we’ve grown chard, but from what I understand we can continually harvest it throughout the season. As long as you cut from the outside in and don’t completely remove the center “whorl” of the plant’s stem just at soil level, it will continue to send up new leaves. I’ve also read that you can cut the entire plant off if you leave about three inches of stem and it will send up new sprouts that way, but we opted for the individual leaf style of harvesting since it is planted in a decorative windowbox.

We prepared it very simply – just fried a few slices of diced bacon, and then cooked the chard with it for a little less than ten minutes until thoroughly wilted. The only seasoning we added was salt and pepper. I couldn’t have asked for a better side dish! It perfectly complemented the pork pie and was surprisingly delicious and sweet. I’m a convert to chard now. My husband has always loved chard, and I’ve always thought it was good, but really kale was more my thing. Even the chard from the farmers market I was only so-so about. But homegrown chard is another thing entirely. It’s one of those greens with a short lifespan once it’s cut, and it loses a lot of flavor in cold storage. But when you cut just moments before it goes into the pan – the flavor is just incredible. The sweetness and subtle minerality really pleasantly surprised me. It’s definitely earned a regular spot at Apartment Farm – I might actually try to start some now from seed so we can be assurred of having a good fall harvest of it beyond the few plants we have now.

I was also very pleased to be able to use our own fresh thyme to flavor the pork pie – the plants are so well established now that we can take as much as we want. Same for the oregano, bay and thyme plants, which we used in last night’s cioppino for dinner. I really love being able to eat what we grow – it’s tasty and intensely gratifying. I’m looking forward to a long summer of continual harvesting!