As I've learned more about food in the last five years, one thing that I'm happy to be incorporating more of in my kitchen is stem-to-root cooking. Many vegetables we eat are used only for their "end" product, such as cauliflower, beets, watermelon, radishes and celery. You may be surprised to know that each of these offers so much more that we can utilize instead wasting. One such way is these colorful pickled Swiss chard stems. Of course we love use to chard for its big leafy greens that are chock full of vitamins and minerals, but what about those beautifully vivid rainbow stems?
Don't waste those leftover rainbow Swiss chard stems! Put them to good use. Photo By Amanda Paa.
Sadly, the stems usually meet the garbage, their full potential left to rot, just like watermelon rinds, beet and turnip greens, citrus peel and corn cobs, to name a few. And many times, they have just as much nutrition as the other parts of the plant. As it relates here, Swiss chard stems are packed with glutamine, which boosts the immune system and aids the body in recovery.
Turn rainbow Swiss chard stems into quick pickles with this easy recipe. Photo By Amanda Paa.
According to several sources, the average American throws away 35 to 40 percent of the food they buy. I myself am not perfect either. There are definitely groceries or produce that I don't get to before they need to be tossed, but I am making a conscious effort to change that. Last week I bought a huge bunch of rainbow Swiss chard, and after braising the nourishing leaves in coconut milk as part of a curry dish, I was determined to save the stems from the garbage and turn them into something delicious. The end result? These tart and snappy pickled chard stems!
I thought about roasting them, but I really wanted to preserve their stunning neon colors. This recipe is easy and requires only a few ingredients. It's also nice because no water bath canning is involved, just a hot seasoned brine and a few days in the refrigerator for the flavors to develop. A combination of garlic, peppercorns, mustard seeds and sriracha spice things up to create this zesty pickle. They’re a perfect snack on their own, diced on top of pork carnitas, or chopped into an omelet.
Pickled chard stems made with garlic, mustard seeds and Sriracha. Photo By Amanda Paa.
Spicy Pickled Chard Stems Recipe
Adapted from Bon Appetit
Makes two 8-ounce jars or one 16-ounce jar
• Cleaned stems from one large bunch of rainbow chard stems, cut to fit into mason jar, about 3/4 inch from the lip
• 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
• 3/4 cup distilled white vinegar
• 1/4 cup sugar
• 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
• 1-1/2 tablespoons sriracha
• 1/4 teaspoon celery seed, divided
• 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns, divided
• 1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds, divided
• 2 cloves garlic, divided
Add each half of the celery seed, peppercorns, mustard seeds, and garlic to each jar. (If just making one jar, this can all go together.) Pack chard stems tightly into jars. Bring vinegars, sugar, salt, and siracha to a boil, in a small saucepan until sugar and salt is dissolved. Then pour over chard stems. Let sit until cool, then put lids on and refrigerate. Wait two days before eating for flavors fully develop. Will last 1 month in refrigerator.
Amanda Paa is a passionate tastemaker, self-taught cook, and author of the blog Healthy Life, Happy Cook. She focuses on eating seasonally and embracing a farm-to-table philosophy with respect to developing recipes that every home cook can recreate. She enjoys celebrating her own community and roots, as well as incorporating other world cuisines that make meals different and interesting. Amanda believes that the heart of living lies within sharing wholesome, nourishing foods with the ones she loves most.