One of the first cookbooks I purchased as a College student was a second hand copy of the Moosewood Cookbook which was full of cheap and healthy 'Whole Food' recipes, many of which were based on brown rice and vegetables. So I learnt to make 'Spinach Ricotta Pie', Spanakopita, Calzone and 'Spinach and Rice Casserole'. Only recently I have discovered that the stems of Silverbeet can be used and cooked in a most appealing way. Stephanie Alexander in The Kitchen Garden Companion gives fantastic recipes for 'Silverbeet Stem 'Chips' as well as 'Silverbeet Stem Gratin'. Last night I made the Spanish version of braised Silverbeet (Acelgas Rehogadas) which uses both stems and leaves. The stalks are slowly sauteed with garlic and onion for 30 minutes and then the torn leaves are added with half a teaspoon of turmeric and some water and cooked for a further 30 minutes. At the end of this time, some fried bread and a tablespoon of sherry vinegar are added to thicken the mixture and bring out the flavour.At first I thought the cooking time was excessive but it really does result in a most wonderful dish. An Italian version of this is actually included in the Moosewood book and forms part of an Antipasto plate to be served hot or cold.
Silverbeet is one of the easiest vegetables to grow as long as it has some well composted soil and gets plenty of water to keep the leaves healthy. It can be grown in a pot on a balcony and does well in a semi shaded position. Leaves are harvested by pulling down and twisting the whole leaf to the side. This is a vegetable which can remain productive over a long period of time and it is well worth growing a couple of plants regardless of how small your garden space is.