Garden gluts: Silverbeet aka Swiss Chard

Silverbeet or Swiss Chard Beware when you’re sowing seeds. Especially if, as happened to us, you’ve ordered them from the Irish Seed Savers Association or Brown Envelope Seeds and every single last one of the seeds sprout forth.

We planted way too many in March, didn’t thin the seedlings enough, and now have copious amounts of kale, purple sprouting broccoli and leeks for later in the season so I’m keeping my eye out for recipes for those (will definitely have to check out some of Sarah‘s ideas for the broccoli!). The squash is trying to escape from the confines of our rabbit-proof fenced veggie garden while I try to figure out what to do with armloads of silverbeet.

Silverbeet, better known as Swiss chard in this hemisphere, is like a larger and more handsome version of spinach. We grow the rainbow variety, which has red, orange and yellow as well as white stalks. Some recipes call just for the stalks, others for the deep green leaves. You can combine the two but you need to ensure that the stalks cooked for longer. Silverbeet is found in every garden and supermarket in New Zealand. Despite the fact that it’s proven really easy to grow here, happily thriving amidst all this summer’s rain, it has been difficult to track it down in Ireland.

The Husband was brought up on and loves silverbeet but it’s been more of a slow getting-to-know-you for me. New Zealand’s Cuisine magazine has proved a good source of recipes as have seasonal cookbooks like Sarah Raven‘s Garden Cookbook and Growers Market by Leanne Kitchen. Stephanie Alexander‘s books – both Kitchen Garden Cooking with Kids and her Cook’s Companion, a very welcome wedding gift! – also have some great ideas and Heidi‘s recipe from Super Natural Cooking which incorporates fried, crusted butter beans with silverbeet is a real winner. Instead of Spanakopita this weather we’re making Silverbeet Pie, a successful way of introducing this vegetable to people who have never tasted it before. Anyone out there got any more ideas? I’m always looking to try out new ways of using it, especially as we can’t seem to make a dent on the supply at all.



Food writer. Broadcaster. Blogger. Author. Married to Eight Degrees Brewing. Member of the Irish Food Writers' Guild, founder of Irish Food Bloggers Association and co-author of Sláinte: The Complete Guide to Irish Craft Beer & Cider (New Island)

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5 Responses

  1. Laura says:

    I only came around to swiss chard this summer and have become an enthusiastic convert. I have the Sarah Raven book which is fantastic but my favourite recipe for it so far is a really simple frittata recipe that I posted from from Gregg Wallace’s Veg Book. Yum.

  2. Caroline says:

    Just discovered that recipe over on your blog, Laura! Great to find more Swiss chard/silverbeet fans in Ireland. After reading this entry, my sister sent me a text saying “sliverbeet? never heard of it!” Will have to entice her down for dinner, methinks, to look into her spelling as much as introduce her to new food!

  3. Julian says:

    One of these days I’m going to get around to doing a bit of research into what exactly American collard greens are, and grow some, but in the meantime I wouldn’t hesitate to introduce a pot of chard to a meaningful quantity of bacon bits and as much of their fat as possible and some hot sauce, to accompany a dinner of Hoppin’ John perhaps. With some beer. And some cornbread.

  4. Caroline says:

    Oooh! That sounds really good! I love dishes that involve beans and ham – Hoppin’ John sounds like something that would sit and cook happily on top of our stove on a wet Saturday. Will have to stock up on Black Eyed Peas…

  5. This is one of my favourite things to grow. Even the children LOVE it. I cook it like spinach, giving it 4 minutes to wilt in a hot pan on its own. I add one of various things once cooked ; a knob of butter, a shake of nutmeg, a drizzle of honey, or a dash of salad dressing. I also throw it into any stew or casserole I make. Once dinner is removed from the oven I stir in the chopped swiss chard, thats all it needs to wilt the leaves.The youngest leaves can be put into a fresh salad, the rainbow of colours are beautiful, especially with some pot marigold petals.The best thing about chard is that it is one of the few things that can be grown in Ireland without being decimated by slugs!

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