What is silverbeet?
Combined with cream and cheese, silverbeet produces a delicious vegetable gratin that jazzes up any main dish. The crinkly leaves also pair well when simply sautéed with olive oil and garlic and served with meat or chicken.
Silverbeet was cultivated from the sea beet and originated in Europe near the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The ancient Greeks enjoyed this vegetable and now it is a favoured ingredient used in many European kitchens.
It is popular in Australian home gardens because you can cut a few leaves and the plant will quickly re-sprout, providing a plentiful supply of leafy, nutritious greens for the kitchen.
In Australia, silverbeet is not sold by variety. There are some types of silverbeet that have large, crinkly dark leaves and others that have lighter green leaves.
Rainbow chard, another type of silverbeet, can have red, purple, orange, yellow or cream stalks. This type of silverbeet is usually harvested when it is smaller than the common silverbeet.
Why silverbeet is good to eat
- Silverbeet is a good source of vitamins A, C, B6 and K (important for helping your blood to clot).
- It also contains riboflavin and folate and minerals such as potassium (which helps to regulate blood pressure) and manganese (involved in the regulation of brain and nerve function).
- Silverbeet contains dietary fibre, which is important for a healthy bowel.
- Energy – 100 g of silverbeet supplies 65 kJ.
How are they grown and harvested?
Silverbeet plants prefer cool temperatures, as heat slows down the growth of the leaves. The plants also need regular watering.
The plants take between two and three months before they are mature. They are ready for harvesting when the leaves are about 30 cm long. Cut off any flower stems that appear on the plant because once silverbeet flowers, the plant becomes unproductive.
You can pick some of the leaves or the whole plant. If you decide to pick only some of the leaves, cut or pull those from the outside of the plant and leave four or five centre stalks for regrowth. To harvest the whole plant, use a sharp knife to cut the plant at the base.
Choose small silverbeet with fresh, dark-green, glossy leaves and crisp stalks. Avoid silverbeet that has wilted, or with visible damage to the leaves.
How to store and keep silverbeet
Store silverbeet in a vegetable storage bag in the crisper section of your fridge. Silverbeet will keep for two to three days.
How to use
- Try silverbeet as a side with meat, chicken or fish – sauté chopped silverbeet, onion and garlic, add pine nuts and currants, then serve while hot.
- Make a silverbeet and ricotta pie – mix cooked silverbeet with eggs, ricotta, fresh herbs and lemon juice, then spoon into a pastry case (or use filo pastry) and bake until golden.
- Serve creamed silverbeet – sauté garlic, add chopped silverbeet, a sprinkle of nutmeg and cream and then simmer until the silverbeet wilts.
- Bake a silverbeet gratin – cook silverbeet in butter with garlic, add some milk and flour, then spoon into a baking dish, toss breadcrumbs on top and bake until golden.
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Better Health Channel
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