Swiss Chard Basics

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The word “chard” comes from the Latin word cardus, meaning artichoke thistle. The origin of the “Swiss” part is unclear, since it is a Mediterranean plant and not native to Switzerland. A possible connection is that Swiss botanist, Gaspard Bauhin, first described the plant. It’s also referred to as silverbeet, Roman kale and strawberry spinach.

Known for being one of the most nutritious vegetables in the world, Swiss chard has many health benefits such as high levels of calcium, magnesium and vitamin K that stimulate bone growth and development as well as its ability to helps regulate blood sugar levels with the aid of syringic acid.

Swiss chard is in the same family as spinach and beets. Its leaves are green, but the ribs and stalks can be a variety of colors. There are three common types: Rainbow chard with colorful red, pink, yellow or white stalks; Fordhook Giant is identifiable by crinkly leaves and thick, white tender stalks; and Ruby Red chard has thin, red stalks and a slightly stronger flavor.

It makes a colorful and tasty side dish, or a nutritious addition to pasta, soup or quiche. For easy buying, storing and prep, follow a few simple steps.

Buy It
Look for crisp stalks and crinkly, vivid green leaves that do not have any browning or yellowing. The leaves and stalks should be unblemished and not wilted.

Store It
Do not wash chard before storing as the exposure to water promotes spoilage. Keep in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to three days. Large batches of chard can be blanched and frozen.

Cook It
Wash leaves in a sink or large bowl of water until free of grit; drain and pat dry. Fresh young chard leaves can be used raw in salads, fold each leaf in half lengthwise; cut out the hard vein and discard. Mature leaves are typically boiled, braised or sautéed; the bitter flavor fades with cooking.