Silverbeet looks like spinach and belongs to the same plant family, but has larger, coarser, milder-tasting leaves. Also known as chard, Swiss chard or perpetual spinach, its highly nutritious leaves contain vitamins A, K, C and E.
Silverbeet originates from southern Europe around the coastal areas of Portugal and Spain, which is why it is often seen as a major ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine.
It can be found in a range of colours, with stalks varying from white and yellow to orange, red and pink. Silverbeet leaves are generally green, but a variety known as ruby chard has red stalks and red-black leaves.
Silverbeet plants are easy to grow from seeds or seedlings and now is the ideal time for planting. Plant several plants in a sunny position and fertilise regularly, to ensure a steady supply.
It is best harvested while the leaves are young and tender with fleshy stems and crisp, dark green leaves. Rather than harvesting the whole plant at once, the outer leaves can be picked as required, allowing the plant to perpetuate for months.
Fresh young silverbeet can be used raw in salads. Both the stalks and leaves can be eaten, although many cooks just use the leaves. The stalks can be chopped and added to stir-fries or stews. The leaves can be sautéed, pan-fried or stir-fried – ensure you use plenty as they cook down a lot once they are heated.
Store any unused silverbeet in a sealed plastic bag to keep fresh.
If you want to grow your own silverbeet, Bickleigh Vale Farm sells silverbeet seedlings at both the Adelaide Showground Farmers’ Market and the Willunga Farmers’ Market.
You can also find bunches of fresh silverbeet at Adelaide Showground Farmers’ Market at the Patlin Gardens, W&B Hart and Virgara’s Garden stalls. Adelaide Showground Farmers’ Market is closed this Sunday due to the Royal Adelaide Show and will re-open on Sunday, September 18. The market is held from 9am to 1pm at the Adelaide Showground, Leader Street, Wayville.
W&B Hart and Virgara’s Garden also hold stalls at Willunga Farmers’ Market on Saturdays from 8am to 12.30pm. Also open on Saturday mornings is the Gawler Farmers’ Market from 8am to noon at the Gawler Visitor Information Centre, 2 Lyndoch Road, Gawler.
Making use of some of fresh silverbeet, Lyndall Vandenberg, marketing and communications coordinator for the Willunga Farmers’ Market, has shared her recipe for Silverbeet and Ricotta Cannelloni.
“This is a bold, easy, yet impressive pasta dish that children, big or small, will love to help you cook,” says Vandenberg.
“The uncomplicated flavours will appeal to developing palates and, even better, you can find most ingredients at the market.”
Silverbeet and Ricotta Cannelloni
You will need
20 fresh lasagna sheets
750ml tomato sauce
This recipe will make more than is required so save the rest for another occasion.
2 medium onions, peeled and chopped
4-5 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
2 litres tomato passata
½ bunch basil
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra
salt to taste
Choose a large, heavy-based saucepan and heat about a ¼ cup of olive oil. Add the onions and cook until softened and turning golden. Add the garlic and half of the basil, including the stems, and cook for a few minutes – it will become quite aromatic.
Add the tomato passata and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low and cook for about 1 hour or until sauce is thickened. Season with salt, remove the basil stems and throw in the remaining basil leaves; stir then taste the sauce. The tomato sauce should taste fresh but not raw with good balance between sweet and salty. If the sauce tastes a little sour then add a little extra olive oil to sweeten.
2 bunches silverbeet
1 egg, beaten
½ lemon, zested
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Cut the silverbeet leaves away from the stems then cook them in two batches in a large pot filled with salted boiling water for about 10 minutes.
Drain the silverbeet into a colander then, using a large flat spoon, compress the leaves to release the excess water. Arrange the leaves on a dinner plate and set aside to cool.
When cool, finely chop silverbeet and combine with the remaining filling ingredients in a small bowl.
Spread one-third of the tomato sauce over the base of a greased 20cm x 30cm ovenproof dish.
Lay a lasagne sheet on a flat surface, spoon on some ricotta filling and roll up. Place in the baking dish, seam- side down. Repeat with the remaining filling and sheets.
Pour the remaining tomato sauce over the cannelloni and bake for 40 minutes in a moderate oven before serving.
Makes about 20 rolls
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