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The Accidental Gardener Print E-mail
by Sandra Lewis    Thu, Jan 22, 2009, 08:09 am

During my teenage years my dad was an avid gardener: okra, tomatoes, squash, zucchini, bell peppers, blackberries, onions and more.

I didn’t appreciate it then, but I do now. And I miss it.

Somewhere in my mid-life years I had this wild idea that I wanted to garden. My children laughed. I’ve killed almost every houseplant we’ve ever had and have paid someone to take care of the yard for years.

How could I ever nurture plants to sprout leaves much less bring forth food?

But I persevered and with the help of a couple of friends built a garden bed late one summer and planted early the next spring: okra, tomatoes, squash, zuchinni, eggplant, bell peppers, jalapenos, herbs galore, including thyme, oregano, sage, and mint.

It was quite the undertaking for a self-admitted plant killer.

While I had visions of plump tomatoes and oodles of squash dancing in my head, I’m here to tell you that growing food is not a magical experience. It’s hard work and my first year of gardening ended in disappointment and discouragement.

There was one exception: Swiss chard, a beautiful green-leaf vegetable with red veins and ribs. My Swiss chard out-produced every other plant in my garden and is still going strong.

Looking out my kitchen window in mid-January at my bare garden except for the abundant and tangled stalks of Swiss chard, my friend Tailor remarked that perhaps I could christen my city as “Swiss Chard Capitol of the World.”

That might be possible. A quick Google search did not reveal a place yet claiming this title. I'm not surprised. Previous to my attempt at gardening most of my friends and family were not familiar with Swiss chard.

So how, oh how did my Swiss chard grow? I planted it and left it alone; it's growth seeming to be accidental except for the singular act of planting it last March.

I’m going to continue my expert gardening technique of ignoring it and see how long it grows. Maybe it will still be around this time next January.

For now I’m content that the children who doubted I would ever plant a garden or be able to make something grow in it are eating their words and love to eat my Swiss chard.

Swiss Chard with Garlic
Swiss chard cooks up like fresh spinach. Sautee it with olive oil, fresh garlic, and a dash of red pepper flakes for a quick and easy side dish.

2-3 bunches of Swiss chard
Olive oil
4-5 cloves of garlic
red pepper flakes

Wash and clean the Swiss chard removing the stems. Roll the leaves and slice into thin strips. Drizzle some olive oil in a pan; when oil is heated add garlic and sautee for a minute. Add the Swiss chard and sprinkle with salt. Sautee until Swiss chard is wilted. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes.

Cook’s Notes:
- You will need a lot of Swiss chard to feed 3-4 people. When it seems like you have too much to cook is probably when you have enough.
- I’ve never been good at measuring ingredients when I throw things together. Learn to live on the edge in the kitchen.

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