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Fresh Picks: Chard

Each week, we'll tell you the freshest thing to taste from Colorado farmers and chefs. 

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We hope you’re hungry!

This summer, we’re highlighting a must-eat-right-now ingredient every week. While the spring rains delayed several crops, local chard—this week’s featured veggie—is starting to make an appearance at the markets.

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Chard | Family: Amaranthaceae

From the Farmer: Because chard is a biennial plant, it doesn’t bolt to seed the first year it is planted, which is why farmers harvest frequently and plant successive crops throughout the season. “Chard is something you can keep growing all summer long,” says Ollin Farm’s Mark Guttridge. “Chard actually likes the heat of the summer. It lends itself to a lot of bright colors and we grow four varieties.” Guttridge likes to harvest baby leaves, which are tender and sweet, and sauté them for 30 seconds with already caramelized onions.

Good for You: Chard is packed with nutrients, but it really delivers on Vitamin K, which helps your heart and bones. Cool fact: It has carotenoids, too, which help protect your eyes from damage.

Around Town: “Chard is just coming in,” says Kelly Whitaker, chef-owner of Basta in Boulder and Cart-Driver in Denver. Once the hearty greens are plentiful, Whitaker will work them into Basta’s rotating vegetable option as a sauté. In addition, the restaurant’s braised bacon dish, currently served with spinach, grape agrodolce, and black garlic, will instead feature wilted chard and a chard stem agrodolce. “We like to separate the stems from the leaves and repurpose them,” Whitaker says. These crunchy remnants show up as pickles and marmalade. Back in Denver, Pete Ryan, chef-owner of the Plimoth, is serving a chard marmalade with the pork entrée. Over at the Squeaky Bean, chef Chris MacGillivray tosses pickled stems into a Swiss chard salad that’s topped with a white balsalmic vinaigrette, Valbreso feta, and pumpkin seeds.

In Your Kitchen: Rarely a week goes by without chard making an appearance at my dinner table because the leafy green is so versatile. When the first greens arrive, I love to use the fresh leaves in dishes like this take on a summer roll, which uses the chard as a wrapper (people avoiding carbs, take note). Don’t waste the stems; make pickles. For a quick weeknight meal, I’ll sauté the greens with a bit of olive oil and serve with crusty bread and a few slices of a cured meat. If the greens start to wilt, I’ll freeze them to use to liven up soups and stews (even pasta) throughout the winter. When in doubt, treat them like spinach: add cream, make a pesto, or serve at breakfast with poached eggs. Finally, I’m eager to try the Swiss Chard Cannelloni from April Bloomfield’s A Girl and Her Greens.

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