Thursday, June 10, 2010

Preserving: Oven Dried Swiss Chard

The Swiss Chard I planted last summer finally bolted. I did some research and you can dry chard for later use. That sounded good to me. I picked and cleaned the chard at the cabin and saved only the leaves. The rest of the plants I chopped up to go in my compost pile.

I was heading to town to visit Mom, so I decided to use the condo's electric oven. It's easier to control at low temperatures than my propane oven in the cabin. So I packed up my chard and headed down the lake. First I gave the big leaves a course chop.

Next I needed to find something to use as a steamer. I found two metal pans from the pie shop that had holes in the bottom. I inverted one and filled a pot with 3/4" of water. I placed the other pie pan on top and voila, I had a steamer for free.

Before drying, it's recommended to blanch chard for 3 minutes. This helps stop enzyme activity and prepare it for drying. Some recommend water blanching, but with the delicate chard I chose the steam method. The key is to use small batches so that it blanches uniformly.

Next I used cookie sheets to spread the blanched chard into thin layers for drying in the oven, already preheated on the lowest setting, 150 degrees. I spread the cookie sheets out on the two oven shelves with lots of space for the warm air to circulate.

To allow moisture to escape, I propped the oven door slightly open with metal tongs. I checked the chard every half hour and turned the leaves. I also rotated the pans on the shelves. When I turned the heat off, I left the pans inside the cooling oven. For me, all three sheets were dry in four hours.

The last step before storing is conditioning. Some leaves may hold residual moisture. To ensure they were all dry, I used a brown bag and left the leaves inside for several days. A few shakes a day helped disperse any moisture. Finally, I stored my dried chard in tightly sealed plastic containers, ready to add as a taste of summer to my winter soups.

Do you dry fruits or vegetables? Now that I've had one success I am ready to try something new. -- Margy


  1. Your swiss chard looks beautiful! I have never "dried" any fruits or vegetables but would like to. I loved dried apples and always buy them in the store.

  2. That's really cool. I never heard of that before. I had mounds of Swiss Chard last year but I froze it all. Your dried chard would have taken up alot less room... I have dried green onions, much the same as you did with the chard. In the oven with the door propped open. I used the green onions in biscuits. I also tried apple which were very good but I did those in a dehydrator. I've also dried herbs.

  3. I dried slices of zucchini squash in the dehydrator last year. I put a little tomato sauce and sprinkled a little garlic on top and then dried them. Delish zucchini chips!

    Enjoying your blog-Blessings!

  4. Margaret - It sure cooks down to almost nothing. I haven't rehydrated any yet, but it sounded good as something to add to my soups. Not sure I would want to use it for anything else.

    CottonLady - that sounds good. When my zucchini starts producing I'll try some.


  5. When I was a child my grandmother would often take me mushroom hunting in the woods. Some were used in dishes during the week. Any others were sliced and dried on parchment paper, placed in an airing cupboard or layed out to dry in a spare room. Dried woodland mushrooms were used in stews and sauces throughout the winter time. Sadly, woodland mushrooms have virtually disapeared from our native woods here in Britain and also in Germany, were I grew up. I still remember the mushroom hunts very fondly and also the distinct smell when we sliced them to be dried.
    I`m sure your woodlands must be brimming with fungy during autumn times. You just have to be upsolutely sure to know your eadable mushrooms from the dangerously poiseness ones.

  6. Wow! Great post, the only thing I ever dried we used to find in Kenya that we later put inot scrap books or school books for projects.I have never tried drying fruit or veg, but this is really interesting and Sarina with the wild mushroom drying wonderful, gosh there is sooooo much to learn.We are just at the begining of our self sustaining journey, and this has given me great ideas for what to do once we do finally grow our own things.
    Thank you Margy for sharing this with us.

  7. Interesting! Our chard came up again this spring (I was shocked) and we ate some...stronger than last year...but I will now try to dry it thanks to your was headed for the compost bin, but this is a more interesting treatment!

  8. That is interesting and never really thought to dry chard. My dehydrator has been super busy this spring. I have thus far dried oregano, dill, strawberries (tons of strawberries for homemade granola) and right now it has the last of the berries and some sour pie cherries in it. I'm low on freezer space, so this may be a viable option for me. Thanks for the clever post! Have a great weekend in your beautiful part of the woods.

  9. Sarina - I would love to go out mushroom picking but I don't know enough to do it safely. They have a community class at our local college that I should take.

    Hay Bale -- I remember drying flowers as well. In college we even dried seaweed in our oceanography class. They turned out almost like art.

    Lorie -- I think a dehydrator would be better but the oven worked OK. My strawberries are going to start coming in soon. Maybe I will try some of those.



We welcome your comments and questions. - Wayne and Margy