Chard
Chard
I discovered chard three years ago. I had picked up a rainbow mix of chard bedding plants and put them in the ground for color in a flowerbed.

As they grew, I realized they were edible. Since I am the queen of veggie stir-fries, I started adding chard stems, cut like slices of celery to mixtures of chopped vegetables stirred and cooked in a fry pan lightly greased with olive oil.

As I added vegetables to the mix, I would work my way from starting with minced garlic and/or chopped onion, adding longer cooking items first, progressing to those needing less time. Lots of stirring with a wooden spoon helps to distribute the heat and cook each addition. The final step would be tossing in shredded cabbage or chopped up chard leaves.

I learned how versatile this vegetable is, starting from adding the young leaves to give color to a salad of greens, to sneaking hidden food value into a homemade pizza. One can add a layer of chopped chard leaves on top of the tomato sauce, before adding other toppings. With a layer of melted cheese on top, those dark green leaves underneath become invisible.

Chard season is now upon us. Chard can be harvested over and over throughout the growing season. I have learned to consume chard as a stand-alone vegetable roasted in the oven or as the primary ingredient for a pasta topping.

And now I can hardly imagine summer eating without chard. It can be grown in rows in a garden, tucked into a flowerbed or grown as a pot plant. I prefer the rainbow mix with yellow, pink, red and white stems. But a standard chard has white stems with dark green leaves.

The recipe I am sharing in this column is the chard pasta I have made several times during the last two years. One ingredient that seems to give this mixture a special taste is lemon juice.

Along with growing chard this summer, this has been a very busy last couple of months since that last final, crazy snowstorm on May 2. I have tried to get things planted and replaced after some perennials were killed by the long winter season.

I have happily finished a project to create a giant herb bed at the front of my house in the "moat." A few singular perennial flowers still exist in this bed, but for the most part, this raised planter has a giant patch of parsley and another of basil. I've replanted thyme and oregano, and relocated my tarragon. Along one side is an edging of chive plants, plus a few garlic chives. I've tried some new annual herbs by starting them from seed in the moat-chervil and summer savory.

But I never seem to get done with planting, weeding and potting plants.

I've found that although I enjoy our trips north to the cabin, I have become concerned that I never seem to catch up. I have stated it was because of our long drawn out wintery spring that made it difficult to garden. But if I am honest, I will admit that I am doing more planting and potting than I ever did before.

As I wish for more time, I am realizing retiring from at least one of my jobs is becoming necessary.

When we go up north, I want to be more available to my grandkids. We had a great time there over the Fourth. Along with two of my sons and their families, we also had Syd and Willy, my husband's grandkids up there too.

It was a special time for all of us as we got to know those two better.

There was a whole lot of time spent out in the boat, with various family members clinging to a three-person tube that my husband dragged with the pontoon. No, this was not a slow, lazy lagoon sort of ride. Dale gave the motor a whole lot of gas and created quite the wake with the inflatable behind it.

Of course, I had a planting project that Tyrel and Doron helped with - digging holes for three Black Hills spruces, five gooseberries and three black lace elderberry bushes. On an earlier weekend, my daughter, Amanda, and I had visited the Yellow River Garden Center and located these plants.

Amanda had helped me pick out a number of perennials that would grow well in semi-shade. I had gotten a bed dug up while she was still there and planted a number of the plants we chose. I wanted a few more, but ran out of time that weekend.

So with Molly driving her dad's pickup, that they had used to pull a borrowed pop-up camper to our home, we picked up the trees and shrubs. Truthfully, this project consumed time that might have been better spent with grandkids, but when I get those ideas in my head, I just forge forward toward the goal. Molly enjoyed her time away from kids while we shopped - she selected some herb plants to take home.

I won't be going back up north for another few weeks and in the meantime my husband will be up there to water this new landscape. Back home there are things to do and a city celebration to attend. Although I love it up north, sometimes it is nice to simply be back at home.

Chard Pasta

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 to 4 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped

1 small onion, chopped

1 bunch chard

4 ounces portabella mushrooms, sliced (optional)

Juice of one lemon

3 ounces of feta or goat cheese

Pasta of your choosing-whole wheat linguine or penne pasta work well

Sea salt

Pine nuts (optional)

Red pepper flakes

To garnish-whole oregano leaves (hot and spicy, if possible)



Heat oil in a pan, add garlic and onion. Saute until onion is translucent. Prepare pasta according to the directions while veggies are cooking. Slice chard stalks (thinner stems on the diagonal) and add to garlic and onion as they cook. After a few minutes, add the sliced mushrooms. Then chop chard leaves into about one-inch pieces. Add and cook covered, allowing chard to wilt. Season lightly with salt. Mix in the lemon juice and sprinkle with a pinch of red pepper flakes.

Serve on top of a bed of pasta. Top with feta or goat cheese, pine nuts and a few oregano leaves, to garnish.