Article submitted by Mary Phillips of Forgotten Works Garden Gallery
There are so many choices available when picking out plants for our landscapes and gardens, but usually the 'stuff we eat' is relegated to a special 'vegetable garden' area. Why not mix it up? We use annuals in our landscape beds for simple visual interest, so why not annual (or perennial) vegetables as well? A great beginner's vegetable to integrate into the garden is Swiss chard. It thrives in sun or nearly full shade, has pretty and colorful stems, and with care lasts all year in moderate climates.
Here in Texas, Swiss chard seems to be hardiest in an area with morning shade and afternoon sun. If you can find an area in your landscape with partial tree cover, this will protect it from our often cold and icy winters, and the shade from the full summer sun helps it stay fresh, crisp, and less likely to bolt during the hottest months. It grows to reach about 16-20 inches in height, so it is perfect in a perennial bed for thick, green texture between tall and shorter flowers.
Without a doubt, spring and fall are when Swiss chard really performs best. Try planting seeds in early September, or setting out seedlings any time during the fall. In areas of full exposure, cover it during hard freezes and ice storms with a loose 1-inch layer of straw. If you have a designated vegetable garden with neat rows of plants, then floating row covers are ideal for protecting your chard (and other greens) during the harshest days of both winter and summer.
Some folks eat this mineral rich green raw, but lightly sautéing with garlic is the most popular way to serve chard. Luckily, chard production peaks just when the local garlic is ready to harvest! When the timing is just right, the potatoes, carrots and onions are ready as well, making up a perfect combination for a lentil stew. Nothing could be healthier, heartier and more perfect when the nights are still cool.
Lentil Stew with Swiss Chard:
3 or so cups dried lentils
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped onion (about the size of a tennis ball)
2-3 chopped cloves of garlic. More if you love garlic
2-3 spring potatoes cut into large chunks
Toss all of the above together in a pan with enough water to submerge everything about an inch.
Add salt and pepper and bring to a slow boil for about 30 minutes.
Toss 2 cups of chopped chard leaves and stems in and cook about 15 more minutes.
Add red pepper flakes for heat if you desire.
Have you a favorite fall weather recipe you'd like to share? Would you like more recipe ideas using a particular fall vegetable? Post your comments or questions here.