Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Swiss Chard 'Bright Lights'

Adding a crop of Swiss Chard 'Bright Lights' makes a dramatic statement in a veggie garden of any size. Stalks of vibrant reds, yellows, and oranges are neon exclamation points amongst peppers and tomatoes. Mine are growing next to my 'Falstaff' purple Brussels sprouts (stay tuned for their harvest). The chard can also be planted in between perennials for color that will remain through the summer.

These do well with a deep watering every other week. If they are neglected a little and start to wilt, watering will spring them back to life. My soil isn't extremely rich as I haven't composted in 2 years but it is light. The only issue is slugs. They don't completely decimate the plants, but they do make unsightly holes and trails in the leaves. I just remove the chewed up areas and use the petioles (stalks) for cooking. The petioles stand up to sautéing and have more flavor than the leaves.

My usual recipe for 'Bright Lights' Swiss Chard calls for 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 cloves (or more!) of minced garlic, Kosher salt, chili flakes, and 5 stems of chard roughly cut. Heat up the skillet on high and add oil once it's hot, coating the pan. Reduce heat to medium and sauté the garlic until it just starts to brown. Add the chard, a couple pinches of salt, and a splash of water. Sauté until the chard is semi-tender or the leaves start to wilt. Remove from heat and serve. Other additions to this dish maybe a small squeeze of lemon juice or a reduction of balsamic vinegar with toasted almond pieces and goat cheese.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


I never tire of the novelty of eating flowers. Nasturtiums are such a treat. Their radish-like flavor gives your summer salads and chilled soups a hint of peppery heat.

Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus) will scramble along the ground or climb a trellis. The tiger-faced flowers come in ruby red, orange, yellow, and white.
I grew the scrambler Alaska Mix for the green and white variegated leaves as requested by my husband Eldon (he hopes to use the leaves for Thanksgiving--stay tuned!). The Canary Creeper (Tropaeolum peregrinum) offers frilly yellow flowers and deeply lobed leaves.

Last weekend, I made watermelon gazpacho--each serving topped with a bright yellow nasturtium. Here is the recipe as adapted from Elizabeth Germain in Natural Health magazine. It is best made the morning or one full day before serving.

One individual-sized watermelon (3 lbs)
3 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lime juice (about 2 small limes)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt to taste
1 cucumber, seeds removed and diced
1 red bell pepper, seeds removed and diced
1/3 small red onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 jalapeño, seeds removed and minced
Combined or alone, 1/4 cup chopped herbs of your choice: basil, mint, Italian parsley, cilantro, cutting celery.

Combine watermelon, lime juice, olive oil, and salt in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Add salt if necessary and blend thoroughly. Transfer to a larger bowl. Add cucumber, bell pepper, red onion, garlic, jalapeño, and mix together. Chill until ready to serve. Stir in herbs before serving. Garnish each serving with a nasturtium flower*.

*It's best to eat flowers that have not been treated with synthetic pesticides.