Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Chard Tea

For the most part, the garden we planted this summer (keep in mind it's our first full summer here) has produced just enough to feed the squirrels, with one exception: the swiss chard.  We've eaten some fresh, and some sauteed, but there's been as much as we wanted all summer long.  But with the threat of frost last Thursday, we wanted to make sure we didn't lose the rest of the crop. (Frost can be even more destructive than squirrels, on a short time scale.)  So we decided to freeze it.  Most freezing instructions call for a quick blanching period, and then to put it in freezer bags and, well, freeze it.  But what about the leftover blanching water?  Certainly it's packed with vitamins and minerals and other good stuff.  Sort of like a chard-flavored herbal tea.

Blanched and frozen chard.  We did it in five batches: one for each of the bags of greens, and one for the chopped stems (which are the top two bags).

Blanching that much chard makes some dark green-colored water, almost a gallon in total. That there, Clark? That's a chard tea.

Seasoned up with a little salt and lemon juice and heated to a balmy 120 °F, it makes a fine beverage.  Sort of like a green virgin Mary (although you could add booze if you wanted).  "Now wait a minute!" we can hear you exclaiming.  "Swiss chard has a high oxalate content, that's why it's recommended (by some) to blanch it even if you're not freezing it!  Those oxalates are definitely in the blanching water, and will decrease your ability to absorb calcium, and probably lead to kidney stones!"  ...To which we respond, "Yes, there are oxalates in the blanching water.  But there are also a lot of water-soluble nutrients, minus the most heat-sensitive ones.  And, if you're not already sensitive to oxalate-related disorders, there's probably no need to restrict dietary intake of oxalate-rich vegetables, since dietary intake only accounts for 10-15% of oxalates in the body."  That is, the benefits you definitely gain from consuming the leached nutrients likely outweigh the potential detriment from consuming the leached oxalate.

Or, to put it in a numerical perspective, we can find some data, make some simplifications, and do some math!  The oxalate content of swiss chard is around 645 mg/100 g chard.  Blanching greens removes about 65% of the oxalate, which subsequently ends up in the blanching water.  We blanched about 2.2 kg of chard, which contains about 14.3 grams oxalate.  That means our blanching water contains about 9.4 g oxalate.  We used about a gallon of water (about 3780 grams), meaning that our chard tea contains 250 mg oxalate per 100 g of tea, or about 590 mg oxalate in an 8-oz cup of tea.  That is, drinking one cup of this tea works out to a slightly lower oxalate intake than one 100-gram serving of chard.  Nothing to be afraid of!  (That being said, we're not medical doctors or dieticians, so use your own judgement, or that of your doctor.  In any case, don't try to sue us if you drink some chard tea and get a kidney stone.  We promise you, there's not much to win from us!)

 What do you do with your blanching water?  Let us know in the comments section below!

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