Tuesday, 30 July 2013

The mighty beet

The heritage beets I planted this spring are not quite ready to harvest, but the swiss chard, one of the garden stalwarts in the beet family, is already flourishing.

patch of swiss chard with beets in background

Swiss chard - essentially beets without the root, also known as leaf beet - has been a consistent success in my garden. Potatoes and tomatoes may be shriveled by blight, the beans attacked by black fly, and the cabbage devastated by all and sundry, but the lowly beet carries on. I don't know why none of the pests like it, but I'm not complaining.

I adore swiss chard. It has a slightly bitter, salty flavour, and when stir fried to perfection in olive oil takes on a soft silky texture. The leaves are also beautiful, coming in a range of colours from bright to deep greens, with stalks of white, yellow, orange, pink and red.

The coloured chard is known as bright lights.
I'm also growing a large variety called silverbeet

Just the other day I planted some perpetual spinach, which I immediately recognised as belonging to the beet family by the distinctive knobbly texture of the seeds. With all the varieties I have planted, beets should be feeding me deep into winter.

My favourite recipe for leaf beets is bacon and swiss chard pasta.

I chop the stems and start them cooking a few minutes after the red onion. Then after about five minutes I add the leaves.

My secret ingredient is the balsamic vinegar. I use a decadently expensive brand - I guarantee if you tasted it you too could not possibly go back to the usual weak and watery stuff.

The sweetness of the balsamic vinegar blends perfectly with the saltiness of the bacon and swiss chard, creating a simple, hearty, healthy and beautiful meal.

Bon appétit!