PEAS Farm: Tastes of Summer - Swiss Chard

Ripe strawberries at harvest time.Out with the spring and in with the summer!  The hot, hot weather that has set in means that our tomato plants have grown from knee-high to chest-high in just a week. Now, don’t get too excited, there may be the starts of tomatoes, but they are still very green.
This warm weather also means our zucchinis are now pumping out enough produce to give two per family. Better start locking your car, too, desperate zucchini gardeners are known to slip zucchinis in unlocked cars.  They are a plentiful plant!

We are in that special time of transition from the cold-hardy crops of the spring season to our heat-loving plants.  Take advantage of those recipes that mix the two — peas and spinach, for example.

Here at the Garden City Harvest PEAS farm, we run in partnership with the University of Montana, so our class of fifteen interns, two graduate teaching assistants, and the eight teenagers that make up the Youth Harvest program daily cook lunch for about thirty people (when you add in volunteers and staff).  We cook with whatever is harvestable and so our diet is getting more interesting: spicier with garlic scapes, sweeter with strawberries, and snappier with peas.  We are using up the last of the hearty spring greens, most of which are brassica family members.  Our last bok choi and kohlrabi were pulled from the field this week.

Swiss chard bunches as captured by Square Magazine

This week, I want to give you a taste of what will be cropping up (puns intended) in the next month.  Most of you had your first bites of broccoli this week and you should expect more of that lovely vegetable, along with its cousin the cauliflower.

We will be sharing some edible calendula flowers, which also have healing and soothing qualities for your skin, should you be a salve-maker.  Expect the peas to get sweeter and the zukes more abundant.  We will still have head lettuce for the time being, but it starts to bolt in this hot weather.  When plants bolt they are going to flower and  instead of putting all its sweetness and energy into lush lettuce leaves, the plant spends that energy in seed making. The heat of the summer stresses head lettuce and since it begins to wilt away, it wants to quickly bolt to make sure its lineage will continue.

Dare I mention that someday, someday still a ways off, there will be eggplant, peppers, and basil?  These crops are some of the most heat loving and take a long time to be ready in Montana.  We help them along with a hoop house, but they still take their time growing, ripening. And maybe that is why we love them so.

While we are in our second week of Swiss chard bunches, a treat that will be ongoing throughout much of the season, the most common question at CSA this week was “What should I do with my rainbow Swiss chard?”  While it is beautiful, this super model of vegetables is baffling a few of you.  I like it in a quiche or any similar egg dish, or just sauteed a bit on the stove with lots of garlic and some olive oil.  I went to the interweb to give you all even more options.

Check out this Rate Your Burn blog with 20 (yes 20!) Swiss chard recipes.  Or check out the Kitchn blog on swiss chard  (a GREAT resource for veggies you don’t know, recipes, and even kitchen decor).

If you have a favorite Swiss chard recipe, please do post it in the comments — we’ll try it out on a PEAS Farm lunch and let you know what we think!  And if you try any of the swiss chard recipes, give us your review.  As Annie Guard says on the Pea Green Boat, “It’s a lot more fun for me when your around.” So true.