Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sun Drying Swiss Chard

Yesterday I wrote about my yard of chard. Even with a small floating garden, I can easily produce more than the two of us can eat fresh. Our cabin is getting about eight hours of direct sunlight each day, so I thought I would try some sun dried chard using Mother Nature's solar power.

I consulted one of my preserving books Stocking Up: How to Preserve the Foods You Grow, Naturally by the Editors of Organic Gardening and Farming. I find it's a great reference for harvesting, storing, drying, freezing and canning fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy products, and nuts, seeds and grains. I've used the oven method before to dry chard, but this time I decided to modify their directions a bit.

I picked prime leaves off the plants leaving part of the stems still attached. Rather than use drying racks, I thought stringing the leaves up like herbs would speed the drying process. I used a knife to slit the stems and inserted twine to hang the leaves. Since my chard leaves were nice and large with firm stems, this worked well. If they were smaller, I would choose a needle and thread.

Stocking Up recommends blanching the chard for 30 seconds before drying. It helps preserve colour, nutrients and prepares the plant cells for the drying process. I chose to skip this step and hung the leaves directly in the open air. Thankfully, Wayne installed a line under the eaves of my new porch for my vegetable drying projects.

On an especially sunny day, I took the strings of chard out front to get more warm sunlight. It was a bit breezy as well, so I think that helped things get started. Several times I separated the leaves because they tended to fold over and stick together. By the end of the second day, they were leathery but not completely dry.

I had to leave for a few days, so I hung the strings of chard in a warm airy room in the cabin. Here they will finish the drying process. Once they are completely dry, I will remove the tough middle stem and store the leaves in canning jars with airtight screw lids.

I know it isn't a lot, but I think it was a successful experiment. As long as Mother Nature continues to supply some warm sunshine and a crop of chard, I can keep adding to my supply for winter use in soups and stews.

Do you do any drying of fruits or vegetables? I'd love to hear about your experiences. -- Margy


  1. What a great way to dry veg. This year I am going to try drying tomatoes. I have a dehydrator I bought in a yard sale and want to have a go with this.

    No way as down to earth as your drying method, but I'll see how it does.

    Lil Bit Brit

  2. Great idea, but we are just missing the sun bit, only rain here :(

  3. "Powell River Books" has been included in an edition of Thinking of Christmas Gifts in July for 2012. I hope this helps to point many new visitors (not to mention customers!) in your direction.

  4. creamed chard sound yummy...and yes healthy too :-)

  5. I used to dry veggies and fruit on screen trays stacked a few inches apart in a windy attic. It worked fine, but somehow I kept forgetting to use them until they were old and tasteless.

    I like the idea of hanging them up; that's how I dry hydrangeas for winter bouquets.

    Right now, all I have is homemade dried mint, which I do use a lot of. I may try hanging my parsley; I have a plant that's doing better than I expected, and I know I would use that in the winter.

  6. thanks for sharing.