In season: Swiss chard

Swiss chard is pretty ubiquitous these days. It’s widely available in grocery stores, but just like ornamental kales and cabbages, Swiss chard is finding its way into nurseries as a way to add a little color to your winter garden. You may have planted some ‘Bright Lights’ Swiss chard and not realized those green leaves with the colorful yellow, pink and orange midribs are edible.

But Vicky Fry of Fry Farm in the north Walton County community of Bold Springs wants everyone to recognize those leaves are as delicious as they are decorative.

Fry will be bringing Swiss chard (the leaves, not the plants) to the Sandy Springs Farmers Market when it opens April 13 and the Dunwoody Farmers Market when it opens April 17. Fry Farm will also be at the Suwanee Farmers Market when it opens the first week of May.

Fry grows two varieties of Swiss chard – ‘Bright Lights,’ with its rainbow-hued midribs, and ‘Argentata,’ an heirloom Italian variety with white midribs and large dark green leaves. “We like ‘Argentata’ because of its mild flavor. We’ve found it overwinters without any protection,” she said. “In Georgia, we can actually grow Swiss chard all 12 months of the year.”

The mild flavor of Swiss chard makes it a nice alternative for customers who don’t like the strong flavors of other winter greens such as collards and kale. The colorful midribs of ‘Bright Lights’ make it stand out amongst the other vegetables. “People are attracted by bright colors in vegetables, so when they see ‘Bright Lights’ they’re tempted to buy it,” Fry said. “Once they try it, they come back and buy more.”

Young, sweet chard leaves can be used raw in salads while mature chard leaves and stalks are typically sauteed. Like most greens, Swiss chard is high in vitamins A, C and K. “Lots of our customers are looking especially for vegetables with vitamin K,” Fry said. “For our customers who have health issues and those who are thinking about the nutrients in their food, they like knowing we’re Certified Naturally Grown and don’t use chemical fertilizers or pesticides.”

Fry says it’s important that when she cooks, the dishes are quick. “I saute a little garlic, then chop up the chard leaves and stems and add that to the pan. I add a little chicken broth or water, cover the pan and let it steam for 10 minutes,” she said. “That’s an easy, healthy side dish.”

At local farmers markets

Farmers market openings:

8 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Saturday, April 13. Alpharetta Farmers Market, Alpharetta.

9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, April 13. East Lake Farmers Market, Atlanta.

9:30-11:30 a.m. Saturday, April 13. Sandy Springs Farmers Market, Sandy Springs.

8 a.m.-noon, Wednesday, April 17. Dunwoody Green Market, Dunwoody.

Cooking demos:

9:30 a.m. Saturday, April 13. Chef Ian Winslade, Murphy's, working with Swiss chard. Morningside Farmers Market, Atlanta.

10 a.m. Saturday, April 13. Chef Terry Koval, The Wrecking Bar. Peachtree Road Farmers Market, Atlanta.

For sale

Vegetables and fruit: arugula, Asian greens, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, celery, chard, collards, dandelion, endive, fennel, frisee, green garlic, herbs, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, mache, mushrooms, mustard greens, onions, peas, radishes, rutabaga, sorrel, spinach, spring onions, strawberries, sweet potatoes, turnips, winter squash

From local reports

Ian Winslade’s Seared Sea Scallops with Swiss Chard

Hands on: 30 minutes

Total time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Serves: 4

Chef Ian Winslade of Murphy’s Restaurant will be demonstrating this recipe April 13 at the Morningside Farmers Market. If you’ve never made gnocchi but always wanted to try, this recipe is almost foolproof.

1 large russet potato

2 cups blood orange juice

2 tablespoons champagne vinegar

1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided

Sea salt and pepper

1 cup goat cheese

1/2 cup all-purpose flour, plus extra for work surface

2 egg yolks

1/4 cup finely diced shallot

1/4 cup finely diced ginger

4 cups shredded Swiss chard, stems included (1 bunch, about 1/2 pound)

20 sea scallops (about 1 1/4 pounds)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake potato until done, about 1 hour. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

While potato is baking, make blood orange sauce. In a small saucepan, bring orange juice to a boil. Boil until reduced to 1/2 cup, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk in vinegar, then drizzle in 1/4 cup olive oil. Season to taste. May be made ahead up to 5 days and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before using.

To make gnocchi: when potato is cool, peel and use a ricer to mash the potato. Stir in goat cheese, 1/2 cup flour and egg yolks. Season to taste. With lightly floured hands and on a lightly floured work surface, roll mixture into a 1/2-inch diameter rope and cut into 1-inch pieces.

Bring a medium sauce pan of lightly salted water to a boil. Have a bowl of ice water ready. Reduce heat to a slow boil and add gnocchi. Do not crowd pan. Cook gnocchi until they float, about 4 minutes. Remove gnocchi from pan and drop immediately into ice water. When cool, drain and lay out on clean baking sheet. Keep gnocchi from touching. May be made up to 1 day ahead, covered and refrigerated.

When ready to serve, heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil in a large skillet. Saute shallot and ginger until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add Swiss chard and cook until just wilted, about 5 minutes. Add gnocchi and stir to combine. Season to taste and cook until gnocchi is warmed through, about 2 minutes.

While gnocchi is warming, heat remaining teaspoon of olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Season scallops with salt and pepper and brown on both sides, just until golden, about 3 minutes per side.

Drizzle 4 serving plates with orange sauce, divide Swiss chard mixture between plates and surround chard on each plate with 5 scallops. Serve immediately.

Per serving: 573 calories (percent of calories from fat, 47), 38 grams protein, 37 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 30 grams fat (10 grams saturated), 183 milligrams cholesterol, 456 milligrams sodium.

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