Scooter in the gardenI had to hurry.  By the time I got home from work the sun had already dipped behind the hedges, and shadows were swiftly falling over the garden.  Armed with scissors and colander and accompanied by my cat, Scooter, I raced against the fading light to harvest enough chard for dinner before the slugs made their nightly appearance.  Because, I must confess, I am much too squeamish to risk twilight encounters with slugs. 

 The curly, sturdy kale will last all winter if I’m lucky, but the chard has been going fast.  Still, enough remains for a few more meals.  I carried my colander full of summer-green goodness inside.

                                 Rainbow Chard

As soon as the urgent business of chard harvesting was accomplished, the pace slowed down.  It was so delicious to have a free weeknight, with no dinner plans, no committee meeting or yoga class, to not get an oil change or do errands or laundry or even go on a run.  I pulled on my most comfortable sweatpants, the ones that are too old and ratty to wear with any witnesses- even to go to the grocery store I have to swap them out for a higher-class of sweatpants. And slippers were definitely required, what with the chill in the air.   

I turned on some cooking music.  Tonight’s selection: Appalachia Waltz by Yo Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer, and Mark O’Connor.  Then I washed and inspected the chard carefully, rinsing under the curling edges of each leaf, to ensure that no dirt or bugs remained. 

Before proceeding further, I got out some of the roasted chicken and root vegetables left over from Sunday, as chard cooks quickly. 

The process couldn’t be simpler, and here it is: I chopped the leaves into approximately inch-wide ribbons, discarding the stems. After heating a small amount of olive oil in a wok, I quickly sautéed the greens until just barely limp, then turned up the heat and squeezed some lemon juice over the top.  A quick dash of salt and a few grinds of the peppermill, a final stir, and the now perfectly steamed chard joined the chicken and root vegetables on my plate. 

This fall crop of chard tastes stronger than it did in the spring.  Then, it was light green and refreshing, and I stir-fried it with the delicate chopped stems included.  Now, the greens are darker, have a much earthier flavor, full of soil and sunshine, more mature, as befits the season.

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