A Fool for Pickled Chard

I finally got around to pickling chard stems again last week, when I needed to dig out several big Swiss chard plants so I could start next year’s garlic crop in a raised bed. These plants were of the Bright Lights variety, with its assortment of beautiful yellows, pinks, and reds.

Bright Lights first proved me a fool me last spring, when the plants had grown about two inches tall. I had expected to find all the various colors on a single plant, as with a capsicum plant whose fruits change according to individual timetables from green to yellow to orange. Not so with the chard. I found some seedlings with yellow stems, and others with pale pink, beet-red, or white stems. Obviously, a farmer sells a multicolored bunch of chard by banding together stems from various plants. Someone with a very small garden who wants multicolored chard may have to choose one color for herself and share other seeds or seedlings among her friends, with the hope that they can trade full-grown stems later on.

Bright Lights turned out to be just as stringy as plain old white-stemmed chard. I was fooled again in the kitchen as I pulled off the strings; as with most rhubarb varieties, the color on those pink, yellow, and red stems is only skin deep, and much of it comes off with stringing. My Bright Lights had dimmed before the pickling began.

I made the pickle as in my prior post on this topic, except in a quart jar this time. The next day I thought I would take a picture of the pretty jar, but now, strangely, the contents appeared uniformly pink. Tipping the jar, I saw that the top ends of the chard stems were all the same color, a very pale pink. Fooled again! The chard had given up its color to its pickling liquid. I might as well have pickled a jar full of white-stemmed chard and slipped in a small slice of beet.

Bright Lights chard in all its lovely colors is still growing strong in the main garden. Until the rains drown the plants or the cold rots them, I’ll search for other ways to bring their beauty to the table.

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About Linda Ziedrich

I grow, cook, preserve, and write about food in Oregon's Willamette Valley.
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9 Responses to A Fool for Pickled Chard

  1. narf77 says:

    Lol…chard strikes again! I just use the stems in with the leaves much like broccoli stems in with the florets. There are many Italian recipes for using just the stems and I dare say that they could add bulk to pickles or chutneys if needed (as well as colour ;) ). I just planted rainbow chard and made sure that I picked a punnet that had various colours in it. No point just getting white or pink or yellow, I wanted at least one of everything :)

  2. Sheila says:

    I bought starts from a nursery this year, I’ll have to let you know how they do from seed next year but I believe the seed companies mix the colors so you should get a variety from Bright Lights seed packet.

    I did pickle some right after reading your last post, was surprised to see the color coming off with stringing since you hadn’t mentioned it, so I just stopped stringing them. Alas, they gave up all their color to the brine, and now are a rather unappetizing gray-purple. They still taste good though.

    It might be the end of the chard here – DH picked some for our soup last night, when I got up it was 24 degrees this AM and we are expecting a nor’easter tomorrow…

  3. Sheila says:

    I bought starts from a nursery this year, I’ll have to let you know how they do from seed next year but I believe the seed companies mix the colors so you should get a variety from Bright Lights seed packet.

    I did pickle some right after reading your post a few weeks ago, was surprised to see the color coming off with stringing since you hadn’t mentioned it, so I just stopped stringing them. Alas, they gave up all their color to the brine, and now are a rather unappetizing gray-purple. They still taste good though.

    It might be the end of the chard here – DH picked some for our soup last night, when I got up it was 24 degrees this AM and we are expecting a nor’easter tomorrow…

  4. baltimoregon says:

    Never thought of pickling chard stems! Very cool:) Just linked to your pickled ginger recipe on my blog. I’m writing on local ginger for the Portland Phoenix…I think it runs this week.

  5. Mary Ann says:

    How do you protect your chard from leaf miners? The only method I know is to pick the damaged leaves to discourage more, but the leaf miners are always quicker than me, so I’m not left with much to actually eat.

    • I never had leaf miners until last year. Now they’re a terrible problem, and I haven’t been using the leaves much at all. I’m thinking that the best remedy might be to stop growing beets, chard, and spinach for an entire year.

  6. Pingback: Links: Savory Granola, Pickled Chard Stems, Quick Pickles + Winners - Food in Jars | Food in Jars

  7. The Restaurant I work at pickles chard stem all the time…but in a more tedious and less enjoyable manner. As you mentioned, we do add beet juice to keep the color, so they are bright red throughout. To be honest, they are quite tasty but if they weren’t so time-consuming, the staff would probably eat them all before even going out of the kitchen.

    • For a strong, attractive color in the stems as well as the pickling liquid, I now feel that the addition of red beet or beet juice is essential, whether the chard has white or colored stems.

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