On a scale of 1-5, how ambitious were you with your garden this year?

I started out extremely ambitious. Like, I’m-the-best-farmer-in-the-world-ambitious.

Then I had my ego handed to me on a platter made of corn stalk nubs, meticulously gnawed down by the chipmunks.

Pickled Swiss Chard:

But there were a few successes. In fact, there were many in the end. It just required a lot of weeding.

A lot of weeding.

A lot of weeding.

I-caved-and-hired-help weeding.

But there was some success.

Like this beautiful thing. This basket of fuchsia sticks. Also known as Swiss chard stems.

At the end of every season I like to preserve the end of summer for those cold winter months when a basket of fuchsia sticks seems like an impossible dream.

Here is how I preserved these particular fuchsia sticks… and helped keep their color in the process.

Pickling is such a forgiving thing. It can take on so many flavors and colors, depending on your whim. You can even experiment with interesting vinegars.

The stems are what you pickle on Swiss chard. The leaves you freeze or sauté and enjoy for dinner.

You cut them and trim them into 1.5-2 inch pieces, because that is the size that I think goes well on a plate of paté and cheeses. But you can really cut them to whatever length you desire.

Step 1 – Pour in your vinegar.

Step 2 – Pour in your sugar and salt.

Step 3 – Pour in your mustard seed…

…your coriander…

…your black pepper…

Step 4 – And then there is of course the important matter of beets.

Just like the turmeric I used in my pickled turnips not too long ago to dye them… here I used the bodacious beet.

I love dying with natural foods. Did I ever tell you that I used to paint with wild berries and crushed grass as my ink? When I was a wee thing. Or maybe not so wee.

Once the liquid goes from cold to hot and back to barely warm, that is when you add your swiss chard stems. This way, they will never turn brown from the vinegar, but rather maintain their beautiful color and marry with the beets.

It’s a wonderful marriage indeed. Have you spent any time preserving or pickling lately? There’s nothing like a good pickled thing in December. Amen.

Watch my video on how to make a universal pickle recipe and be sure to subscribe for more Modern Pioneering tips.


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“Pickled Swiss Chard”

Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Total Time20 mins
Servings: 4 cups


  • 4 cups swiss chard stems cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups white or rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seed
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seed
  • 1 medium red beet peeled and chopped into 1-inch chunks


  • Place all ingredients - except the chard stems - in a large pot and bring to boil. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.
  • Add the chard stems and store in mason jars or other airtight containers in the refrigerator. If you so desire, you can process the jars in a hot water bath for 10 minutes to preserve them for storage outside of the fridge. Consult a canning guide for these steps.