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Silverbeet

Beta vulgaris


Photo courtesy of Horticulture New Zealand

Description

Silverbeet is another of those wildly unpopular vegetables whose reputations have been damaged by improper cooking.

But it’s not that bad. Strip out the tough middle ribs of larger stalks, cook it quickly, and it’s a tasty, healthy leafy vegetable that can almost always be picked up for less money than spinach.

Silverbeet can come in a variety of colours – normally you’ll see it with bright white stems and veins, but these can also be red and yellow. It’s a fantastic source of vitamins C, E, and K, as well as beta-carotene, zinc, folate, and calcium.

Choose silverbeet that’s not limp or wilted and is free from soft slimy spots, especially on the stems. It will keep for several days in the vegetable crisper of your fridge, but if it’s a bit past its best just add it to a soup or stock.

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History

Like a lot of leafy vegetables, silverbeet originates from the Mediterranean. Both the Romans and Greeks valued it as a medicinal vegetable, cultivating it for its roots. When it made its way throughout the rest of the continent, it began to be cultivated for the leaves instead.

Uses

Silverbeet, though it has a stronger, more tangy flavour and requires slightly more preparation, is interchangeable with spinach in almost any recipe.

If you’re using older, larger leaves, these are best cooked as they can be tough. But they’re great thinly sliced and added to soups just before serving, or can be torn and used in a silverbeet and feta pie – just make sure you remove the ribs by cutting them out in a v-shape if the leaves are really large.

Small silverbeet leaves can be used in salads with the ribs, or steamed or sautéed as a side dish.

Facts

In some countries, silverbeet is also known as Swiss chard, or just chard. The name comes from cardoon, a similar plant; the French got mixed up between the two and called them both carde.



Snow Peas »« Shallots

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