Swiss Chard – A Misunderstood Garden Favourite

I think Swiss chard is an under-appreciated vegetable; often called to be used “instead of spinach”, it has got a bad reputation because its flavour does not really mimic that of spinach, being stronger and a tad bitter.  In the garden, however, it is more resilient than spinach, and has a much longer growing season, even thriving through the hot summer months, as long as some shade is provided.  It has other traits that makes it hard to define; being another crop from the huge Amaranthaceae family, it is indeed related to spinach, but it is actually the same species as beets (Beta vulgaris), although beets (Beta vulgaris, var. vulgaris) are grown mainly for their taproots, and Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris, var. cicla) is used for its greens and stems, which come in different colours (see my rainbow Swiss chard at the top of this post.)

Even its name in English is a little silly, because this plant is not originally from Switzerland; it is unclear why it has this name, but it is sometimes attributed to the fact that it was first described by Swiss botanist, Gaspard Bauhin.  Its Spanish name is acelga, which comes from the Arabic Andalus “al-silgah”; al – an article, and Sikelia – the Greek name for Sicily, where the Greek first found this plant, which they called “sikelos.” 

Acelgas came to Mexico through Spain, and have been used in different dishes ever since.  Probably the best well-known is “Acelgas con puerco en salsa verde” – “Swiss chard with pork in green sauce”.  Since I had a good supply of tomatillos and a beautiful harvest of Swiss chard at hand, I decided to prepare this dish, but instead of adding stewing pork to the pot, I kept it vegetarian and fried quick pork chops separately; this way, my whole family (vegetarian and omnivores) would be taken into consideration.

Swiss Chard in Green Sauce –

Acelgas en salsa verde

Printable recipe: Swiss Chard in Green Sauce

Ingredients

1 bunch Swiss chard; washed, stems and leaves separated
½ lb (227 g) mini potatoes; washed, cooked and halved, peeling optional
½ lb (227 g) tomatillos; husks removed, washed, halved
1 onion; peeled
¼ cup cilantro; washed, with stems
1 serrano or jalapeño pepper; washed, stem removed
Salt, to taste
½ cup water
2 tbsp oil
Pork chops, optional; cooked to taste

Place the tomatillos, half the onion cut into chunks, cilantro, hot pepper and salt in a blender jar (photo below, left).  Process until smooth (photo below, right):

Reserve.  Chop the other half onion and the Swiss chard stems.  In a large pan, warm up oil over medium heat; add chopped onion and stems, stirring to coat with the oil, and continue cooking until the onion is translucent (photo below, left).  Pour sauce into the pan (photo below, right):

Pour water into the blender jar (to rinse any sauce residue) and pour into the pan (photo below, left); stir to mix and bring to a boil, then add potatoes (photo below, right):

Bring to boil again, then reduce to medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally.  Meanwhile, coarsely chop the Swiss chard greens; add to the pan after the potatoes have been in for about five minutes (photo below, left).  Stir to mix everything together, and continue cooking just until the Swiss chard greens have wilted (photo below, right):

Adjust seasoning with more salt, to taste.  Serve hot with tortillas on the side as a vegetarian meal, or as shown below, arranged as a bed for pan fried pork chops, for the traditional flavour “con puerco”:

009 serve with pork chops


I am bringing my recipe to Thursday Favourite Things #411 with Pam @ An Artful Mom, Bev @ Eclectic Red Barn, Marilyn @ Marilyn’s Treats, Katherine @ Katherine’s Corner, Amber @ Follow the Yellow Brick Home, Theresa @ Shoestring Elegance  and Linda @ Crafts a la Mode.  Thank you, Pam for featuring my Jalapeños en Escabeche at this party!


I am joining Full Plate Thursday #454 with Miz Helen @ Miz Helen’s Country Cottage.  Thank you Miz Helen for featuring my Jalapeños en Escabeche at her party this week.


I am sharing my recipe at Fiesta Friday #298 with Angie @ Fiesta Friday.


I am also linking to What´s for Dinner? Sunday Link-Up # 123 with Helen @ The Lazy gastronome.

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5 thoughts on “Swiss Chard – A Misunderstood Garden Favourite

  1. This looks like a stew to me. Very nice with the pork chops. Unfortunately Swiss chard is difficult to get here, because it is considered to be cattle feed. I am always surprised when I see it everywhere in supermarkets in Italy or the US. Here it is never available in supermarkets.

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  2. Wonderful recipe I will try. I first used Swiss chard 3 years or so ago, when I joined a CSA and they had it available. So far the only way I have prepared it is cutting the leaves away from the stems, rolling the leaves, then cutting the rolls to make long strips, then I sauteed them with onion and mushroom and steamed them with the lid on the pan for about 15 min. I never got past that dish. This gives me a new way to try them.

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