The chard in the food garden is making gigantic leaves right now. They are so big I am tempted to preserve them and use them as shoe leather, or a hand fan, or something practical. Since those wild ideas are probably ultimately not as practical as one would hope, I opted to put together this 13 bean soup, and just enjoy the chard in its glorious, minimally processed form. That’s actually my favorite way to enjoy nutrient dense greens! My partner Ricky bought a bag of 13 bean soup mix a while ago, and has been nudging me to make soup out of it. So here is one more hearty soup to get into your belly before the seasons completely change over. Or enjoy it all spring and summer using a variety of different seasonal greens and fresh vegetables. The key is to put the greens in at the end, so they are super fresh, vibrantly colored and retain as much of their living nutrition as possible.
13 bean soup with garden chard
2 cups Bob’s Red Mill 13 Bean Soup Mix
2 1/2 quarts vegetable or chicken broth
1 onion, coarsely diced
2 large carrots, cut into hearty slices
2 stalks celery, cut into hearty slices
2 cloves garlic, chopped
10 oz. crimini or conventional white mushrooms, left whole, or cut in half if they are large
1 bunch Swiss chard, any color, cut into large strips cross-wise
Sea salt and pepper to taste
Optional: Extra water on reserve if needed
Optional: Other garden fresh vegetables that will go well like zucchini, asparagus, or fennel
Rinse and soak the beans for at least 2 hours, or overnight. Bring 2 quarts of the broth to a boil in a large soup pot. Drain the soaked beans, rinse one more time, then add to the boiling broth. Return to a boil and then lower to a rolling simmer. Let the beans simmer for about an hour, uncovered.
While the beans are simmering, cut up all your vegetables and clean and chop your herbs. At the hour point of cooking, add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, mushrooms, and herbs. Add the remaining 1/2 quart of broth and return to a boil once again, lower to a rolling simmer, cover, and let simmer for about 30 minutes. At this point you want to check one of the larger beans in the mix to see how soft it is. If it is tender to the bite or the touch, your are ready to add the remaining ingredients and finish the soup. If not, let it simmer for another 30 minutes.
If the soup reduces too much you can add a little fresh water as you go. Also, if you are using a salted broth, you may need to mix in some water to cut down that flavor as the sodium reduces in the soup.
Once the largest beans in the soup become soft or just al dente enough to eat, add the fresh chard. Cook just until the chard wilts. Check for seasoning and enjoy soon while the chard is still fresh and vibrant.
This soup stores great and develops more flavor with a few days. In this case, add more fresh greens at the end of reheating if you want the same fresh vegetable effect. Other fairly tender green vegetables can also be used.