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Turn discarded stems into colorful refrigerator pickles

Recipe: Rainbow chard stalks produce a pretty snack

Red chard stems and spices are covered in brine, ready to chill in the refrigerator.

Red chard stems and spices are covered in brine, ready to chill in the refrigerator. Kathy Morrison


In my continued quest to not let anything go to waste these shelter-at-home days, I went hunting for recipes to use chard stalks. There had to be something out there that used the long, pretty, celery-like stems from my
never-say-die chard plant .

I hit on pickles, and have tried a couple of recipes now. The one here (adapted from an Epicurious recipe) is my favorite so far, with mustard seeds, coriander seeds and a shallot -- adding a lot of flavor to the gorgeous but rather bland chard stalk pieces.

These pickles aren't as fast as our blog's famous Zapped Pickles , but they still go together pretty quickly. No canning is involved, since they pop into the refrigerator, but make sure to have a sterilized pint jar ready to put them in. (The dishwasher works just fine.) Then chill and enjoy!

Refrigerator chard stem pickles

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A few ingredients are all you need to make a pint of pickles.

Makes 1 pint

Ingredients:

4 large stalks from chard, washed and trimmed
1 small shallot, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon brown mustard seeds
1/2 tablespoon coriander seeds or caraway seeds
A couple of black peppercorns, optional
Brine:
1/2 cup unseasoned rice vinegar (champagne vinegar, apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar also work, but avoid distilled white vinegar)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water

Instructions :

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Toast the seeds before using in the pickles.

Slice the chard stems into 1/2-inch pieces, removing any outer strings that come loose as you cut. You should have about 2 cups of pieces. Combine the chard pieces with the shallot slices and the salt in a colander set in the sink or over a large bowl. Let stand 1 hour.

About 15 minutes before the chard stems are ready, toast the mustard seeds and coriander seeds (and peppercorns, if using) in a small, dry skillet over medium heat. Stir often. In about 2 minutes, the mustard seeds will start to pop open. Remove the pan from the heat before too many pop, and let the seeds cool.

To make the brine, combine the vinegar, sugar and water in a small saucepan, and bring to a boil. The sugar should dissolve quickly. Remove pan from heat.

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After cooling the brine-covered pickles for a few minutes,
cover them and refrigerate overnight.

Rinse the chard stems/shallot combination well, and drain well. Pack the stems, shallots and cooled seeds in a sterilized (washed in hot soapy water or in dishwasher) pint jar. Pour the brine into the jar over the vegetables. Let the mixture cool slightly, then cover the jar with a tight-fitting lid and place it in refrigerator. Chill overnight before serving. Gently shake the jar occasionally, if you think of it, but that's not a must.

The pickles will keep in the refrigerator about a month. If you used red chard stems, the lovely color will fade eventually, but the pickles likely will be consumed before that happens.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 3:

* Celebrate the city flower! Catch the 100th Sacramento Camellia Show 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, March 2, and 10 a.m to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 3, at the Scottish Rite Center, 6151 H St., Sacramento. Admission is free.

* Between showers, pick up fallen camellia blooms; that helps cut down on the spread of blossom blight that prematurely browns petals.

* Feed camellias after they bloom with fertilizer formulated for acid-loving plants.

* Camellias need little pruning. Remove dead wood and shape, if necessary.

* Tread lightly or not at all on wet ground; it compacts soil.

* Avoid digging in wet soil, too; wait until it clumps in your hand but doesn’t feel squishy.

* Note spots in your garden that stay wet after storms; improve drainage with the addition of organic matter such as compost.

* Keep an eye out for leaning trunks or ground disturbances around a tree’s base, a sign of shifting roots in the wet soil.

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* If aphids are attracted to new growth, knock them off with a strong spray of water or insecticidal soap. To make your own “bug soap,” use two tablespoons liquid soap – not detergent – to one quart water in a spray bottle. Shake it up before use. Among the liquid soaps that seem most effective are Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soaps; try the peppermint scent.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Make plans for your summer garden. Once the soil is ready, start adding amendments such as compost.

* Indoors, start seeds for summer favorites such as tomatoes, peppers and squash as well as summer flowers.

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