Swiss chard, also known simply as chard, is a cruciferous vegetable and member of the beet family. Unlike other beets, it’s grown for its stems and leaves, not its root. Its distinctive flavor is akin to but milder than that of beet greens. The plant’s dark green leaves are wider and flatter than beet greens, and they have a full-bodied texture similar to spinach, for which chard is often a good substitute. The fleshy, delicately flavored, celery-like stalks of Swiss chard are edible. In fact, in Europe, they are considered the best part of the plant.
Swiss chard: nutrition
A rich source of beta carotene and potassium, Swiss chard also supplies fiber, vitamin C, and magnesium. The vegetable is also a superb low-fat source of vitamin E, which is usually found in high-fat foods. Though it contains iron, Swiss chard also contains a compound called oxalic acid, which may limit the mineral’s absorption by the body.
Vitamin K interactions
Swiss chard supplies a lot of vitamin K. People who take blood-thinners such as warfarin (Coumadin) are sometimes told to avoid foods high in vitamin K, including collards, kale, mustard greens, and spinach. In fact, they don’t need to shun these vegetables. It’s more important to keep a consistent diet, and eat these vegetables moderately. Newer anticoagulants such as dabigatran (Pradaxa), rivaroxaban (Xarelto), and apixaban (Eliquis) are not affected by vitamin K.
Types of swiss chard
The fleshy stalks and ribs of Swiss chard are most commonly either white or red. There are thin-stemmed and thick-stemmed chard varieties. If you prefer the leaves to the stalks, choose a thin-stemmed variety. If you enjoy the crunchy stalks, go for a thick-stemmed type. Most red chard is thin-stemmed.
- Bright Lights:This variety comes in a rainbow of colors. The stalks and veins range in color from white to gold to orange to pink to purple. Occasionally the green leaves have bronze or copper hues. This newly developed chard is tender and sweet, and each color tastes slightly different.
- Bright Yellow:A yellow-stemmed variety, this chard’s flavor is a bit earthier than white chard and less so than red.
- Fordhook Giant:Probably the most widely available variety, it has large, thick, white stalks and crinkled leaves.
- Rhubarb chard (ruby red):With dark green, crinkled leaves and thin, tender red stalks, this chard has a sweet, earthy flavor that is a little stronger than that of the white variety.
How to buy the best Swiss chard
Swiss chard should be displayed in a chilled case to preserve its crispness and sweetness. Look for a fresh green color. The leaves should not be yellowed or browned. They should be moist and crisp. Avoid Swiss chart that is wilted or blemished by tiny holes, which usually indicate insect damage. Be sure that the stems are juicy and crisp.
How to prepare Swiss chard
Unless the chard is young, the stalks should be separated from the leaves and given a little extra cooking time. Wash chard leaves and stems before using, as they are likely to have sand or dirt clinging to them. Separate the leaves from the stems if the chard is large, and swish the leaves around in a large bowl of cool water. Lift the leaves out, letting the sand and grit settle. Repeat if necessary. Slice or chop as your recipe directs. Don’t heat Swiss chard in an aluminum pot as the chard contains oxalates that will cause the pot to discolor. Start cooking the stems a few minutes before adding the leaves.
8 Swiss chard recipe ideas
- Use Swiss chard in stews or soups, such as this healthy Lentil and Swiss chard soup.
- Chop stems and leaves, sauté in olive oil. Use as a filling for a Swiss chard frittataor omelet, or simply enjoy as a side dish.
- Wrap fish fillets in chard leavesand bake or steam.
- Sauté Swiss chard with raisins and pine nuts.
- Use raw tender baby chard (preferably in a range of colors) to perk up a salad.
- Make a potato-and-Swiss-chard hash,and steam eggs on top for a hearty brunch.
- Stuff large chard leaves with rice and herbs for flavorful Swiss chard rolls.
- Use chard instead of spinach in Spanakopita, a savory Greek pie.