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Chard are the green leaves from the cicla subspecies of Beta vulgaris plants, which closely resemble beets from the ground up. This plant is second only to spinach as the most nutritional vegetable on Earth and well worth preserving after harvest to enjoy months later. To freeze chard, it must first be quickly blanched to stop all enzyme activity and preserve the vegetable's flavor, nutrients and texture during the long, cold wait in the freezer.
Chard is cherished for its vitamin-rich leaves but, unlike its cousin the common beet, its nutritional value does not extend below the soil to the root bulb. Also known as Swiss chard, spinach beet, or silverbeet, chard has predominantly green leaves with red, white or yellowed veins. The older leaves are often wilted in boiling water or a sautee pan and used in sauces, in side dishes or on pizzas. The younger leaves are not as rigid and can be eaten raw in salad.
When this vegetable is harvested but cannot be consumed in about five days of storage in the refrigerator's crisper, many will freeze it so that it will last for a year or more. They start by selecting leaves that are unwilted, and washing them under running water to remove any dirt, insects or debris. Then, the long stems are snapped off the leaf where they connect. If the chard is bundled, this can be done quickly with scissors or a knife.
Blanching is something cooks will do before they freeze chard or any other vegetable. Many do it before they prepare vegetables fresh too. Culinary experts agree that the process used to freeze chard goes a long way to preserve a vegetable's flavor, texture and appearance throughout the freezing and cooking. Chard should not be frozen before it is blanched.
The chard should be added to boiling water. After just two minutes, the leaves should be removed from the water with a colander or slotted spoon and immediately thrown into a bowl of ice water. After another two minutes, the leaves can be removed from the cold water and packed in sealed bags or containers with as little trapped air as possible. Most greens will require this two-minute treatment. Kale, however, will need three minutes, as will any of the stems that will be preserved too.
To freeze chard in this way is to negate the possibility of using it in a salad. In wilted form, however, chard has many uses. In the Mediterranean, where chard is a popular green, a popular side dish from Greece is called horta vrasta, which involves fully wilting the fresh or frozen chard in boiling water for another three to five minutes, then pairing it with salt, pepper, garlic, olive oil and a squeeze or two of lemon juice.
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