If vegetables got grades for nutrition, Swiss chard would go to the head of the class. This tall vegetable with green ribbed leaves and wide crunchy stalks is loaded with vitamins A and C, and is an excellent source of calcium and vitamin K. If you’re ‘boning’ up on veggies, you may want to consider chard for maintaining strong healthy bones.
Swiss chard is a member of the beet and spinach family, and along with kale and collards, is what, in the South, we refer to simply as greens. Its name comes from the Latin and French words cardus or carde, eventually coming to mean stalk or rib. Although the stories of origin vary, Swiss chard most likely got its name from its extensive cultivation in Switzerland. Varieties of chard include white (or green), ruby, with stalks that look like rhubarb, and rainbow – a bouquet of green glossy leaves and colorful stalks of pink, orange, yellow, and bright red.
Chard is available year-round. It is at its peak and available locally from June through August. When selecting chard, look for crisp green leaves, with no yellowing or wilted leaves and firm, thick stalks. It will keep unwashed, in a large food storage bag wrapped in a damp paper towel for up to 3 days. Swiss chard can be gritty, so be sure to rinse well before using. A method we like is to chop the leaves and stems and submerge them into a sink filled with cool water. Swish them around briefly, then leave undisturbed for a minute or so to allow any grit to fall to the bottom of the sink.
Swiss chard’s earthy, slightly bitter flavor is delicious simply boiled or sautéed, or added to soups, rice dishes, savory strudels, and quiches. Try changing it up and use parboiled chard leaves instead of cabbage for stuffing. And while we’re on the subject of change, we’d love you to try these recipes with Swiss chard instead of collards or spinach. Mix it up in our Steak and Greens recipe using chard and other favorite greens. For our Spinach and Bacon Quiche, just be sure to cook the chopped chard leaves in a pot of boiling salted water until just tender. Like spinach, you’ll need to drain the chard well and squeeze it dry before adding to the rest of your ingredients. You will need about 1 bunch chopped fresh chard for our Quick Spicy Collards, and 1 bunch chopped chard for our Creamed Spinach recipe. We hope you will enjoy these recipes as much as we do. Live well – go green!
Food Editor’s Note: The beautiful Swiss chard photographed by Chia Chong for this article was taken from Paula’s vegetable and herb garden on the south side of her home.