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Perspective: When life gives you Swiss chard...


“What’s your least favorite vegetable?”

Not long ago we put that question to our DeKalb County Community Gardens staff members.

Our staff are farmers, gardeners, food pantry managers, food educators, and food transporters–all working together to end food insecurity in DeKalb County. We’ve shared over a million pounds of free food to neighbors since 2013. This staff knows food. Almost to a person, they said the most awful vegetable was…Swiss chard. They called this prolific, vivid, leafy vegetable: tough and bitter; what do you even do with it? Someone said, “We should have a Swiss Chard-Off -- like a cook-off.” Everyone groaned, then laughed, then: “Let’s do it!”

The Epic Summer Swiss Chard-Off took place in August. Contestants weren’t joking around when they brought to the table: Swiss chard & double goat cheese tart, Swiss chard bruschetta, Swiss chard and potato soup, and icebox pickled Swiss chard stems. The winner? Swiss chard & artichoke dip. Obviously the lesson here is: when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. More impressively, when life gives you ropey, bitter Swiss chard, make a Blue Ribbon, creamy, Swiss chard and artichoke dip, with a hint of lemon zest.

But the bigger reminder, in light of these last few years? When life gives you Swiss chard in the form of rising food and fuel costs, surround yourself with creative, funny, hardworking people, with a mission to see what you can cook up together for the good of your neighbors.

Thanks, Swiss chard.

I’m Kyle White and this is my Perspective.

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Blue Ribbon Swiss Chard & Artichoke Dip

5 to 6 leaves Swiss chard, chopped fine

1 can artichokes, drained

1 clove fresh garlic, finely chopped

2 ½ tsps olive oil

6oz. cream cheese

¼ c sour cream

¼ c mayo

1 c parmesan cheese

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tbsp lemon juice

¼ tsp salt

Pinch red pepper flakes

Clean chard, remove stems. Chop fine. Toss with 1½ tsps olive oil & bake on

cookie sheet at 375 for 20 mins--tossing frequently 'til crispy.

Chop artichokes & place in pot with 1 tsp olive oil. Add garlic; cook 'til fragrant.

Add cream cheese & parmesan 'til melted & smooth. Take off heat & add sour cream, mayo, Worcestershire sauce & lemon juice 'til blended. Season to taste with salt & pepper & red pepper flakes. Add crispy chard and blend well. Put in oven safe bowl or dish. Broil for a few minutes for a crispy top. Serve hot or cold with veggies, crackers or chips.

Kyle White is an author and illustrator who lives in Sycamore, Illinois. He works with the not-for-profit DeKalb County Community Gardens.