Sweet Benefits of a Summer Garden

July 10, 2012 in Antioxidants, Blog Recipes, Cooking & Baking Hints, Diabetic Menu Item, fiber, Mediterranean by Joyce Bunderson

You probably know how nutritious dark green leafy veggies are; but are you worried that the children won’t like them, or that you won’t like them?

My vegetable garden is bountiful with Swiss chard, which is a big surprise, because the quail that live in our woodsy yard were totally convinced that my first plantings were especially for them. They don’t even bother to fly over the deer fence; they just waltz right in through the large mesh with hardly a duck of the head. They seem to know how delicious and good for them Swiss chard and lettuce starts are. The Swiss chard is really quite beautiful and I know it’s delicious, too. But it seems that I frequently make the same recipe that I’ve been making for years; so I thought that I should try making something new.

This recipe is really sweet – we thought it was quite wonderful. You’d don’t have to be a child to like it. Sometimes those who are not used to eating greens, detect a slight bitter taste. (There is a gene for this.  Some taste it in broccoli, some don’t). But this recipe would hide that taste, if you were one who detects it. I would say that this is a good recipe to use to introduce greens to someone who is not used to eating them.

In addition, to the nice flavor, this recipe is really easy. I used the date pieces, which are so much easier than taking the pits out and chopping them. If you have whole dates, you certainly can chop them up.

Notice there’s no added salt; and a bonus; it’s loaded with potassium, which is part of keeping your blood pressure in a healthy range. This recipe is good for most people who like to eat healthily.

This recipe could be a poster-child for the Mediterranean style of eating. Remember what the great public health researcher Ancel Keys, who did the seminal work that discovered that the Mediterranean style of eating was exceptionally health promoting and disease preventive – best in the world at that time.  Here is what Keyes said about greens, "No main meal in the Mediterranean countries is replete without lots of verdure (greens)." Greens are often prepared with virgin olive oil, which itself is an additional source of antioxidants. In this recipe, the pine nuts add to the chard to boost the meal’s protein content up – helping you to feel satisfied for a longer period of time. But the protein note is just the nutritional foot note.  The toasted pine nuts are heavenly!

Sweet Swiss Chard with Dates and Pine Nuts


1-¼ pounds of Swiss chard (about 2 bunches, any color)

3 tablespoons pine nuts

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

½ cup date pieces

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar


Wash chard and cut the leaves off the stalks. Cut the stalks into ¼ to 1/3-inch pieces. Cut the leaves; slit the large leaves along the center stem and make a slit in the middle of each half leaf. Stack all the slit leaves up, and then slice in 1-½ inch pieces. (Note: I like to do it this way because it does not allow long pieces of greens when cooked – easier to eat, especially for beginners to cooked greens.)

In a dry skillet, toast the pine nuts for about 3 minutes, stir or shake the pan until browned evenly.

Put the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the chopped stalks. Cook until the stalks begin to look clear, about 3 or 4 minutes. Add the dates, cut leaves, and garlic. Stir a little and cover the pan. Heat over a medium-low heat - the leaves will wilt fairly quickly. Stir every couple of minutes; cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until tender.

Stir in vinegar and sprinkle with pine nuts.

I served this with fish and fruit; but it would easily go with meat and potatoes, if you prefer.


Almost too pretty to pick


All colors of Swiss chard are tasty.

More colorful Swiss chard

Measure the pine nuts

Browning the pine nuts in a dry skillet


Set aside the browned pine nuts

Measure the date pieces

Admire your colorful chard

Remove the stems

Chop the stems into 1/2 inch pieces

Measure extra virgin olive oil into skillet

Saute stem pieces in oil

Saute until tender

Add minced garlic

Add the date pieces

Add the chopped leaves to the stems

Stir until leaves are withered and add the vinegar

Sprinkle with pine nuts and serve