Also known as chard or silver beet, Swiss chard is one of several leafy vegetables commonly referred to as "greens." This tall plant is a member of the beet family, and it's grown for both its tender green leaves and celery-like stalks. Similar in flavor to spinach and beets, chard is pungent, bitter and slightly salty.
Swiss chard isn't actually native to Switzerland. A Swiss botanist named Koch determined the plant's scientific name in the 19th century, and since then, the vegetable's name has honored his homeland. Chard really originated further south, in the Mediterranean region. Aristotle wrote about it in the 4th century BC, and the ancient Greeks and Romans valued chard for its medicinal properties.
A variety with dark green leaves and reddish stalks is sometimes referred to as rhubarb chard. It has a stronger flavor than chard with lighter leaves and stalks. There's also a variety called ruby chard, which has bright red stalks and deep red leaves tinged with green.
Available year-round, chard is best between the summer months of June to August. Look for crisp stalks and brightly colored leaves.
Refrigerate, wrapped in a plastic bag, for up to three days.
To prepare chard, discard any wilted leaves and trim the bottom end of the stalk. All greens require a thorough washing to remove any sand or soil hidden in the leaves. To do this, put the leaves in a large pot of cold water. Swirl them around and wait a few minutes for the grit to settle to the bottom. Rinse the chard under cool running water.
- Greens can be steamed, braised, sautéed or boiled with ham hock or salt pork.
- As a general rule of thumb, chard should be cooked until tender—about five to 10 minutes.
- Thicker in texture, the stalks take longer to cook than the leaves. Get them in your pot a few minutes early.
- Don't cook chard in aluminum pans—they'll give your greens a dark color and metallic flavor.
- Pair strongly flavored greens like chard with ham, pork and pot roast.
- Toss steamed chard with pasta, olive oil, lemon juice and garlic.
- Cook until just tender, chill and toss with salad dressing.
- Use chard in vegetarian lasagnas, omelets or frittatas.
- Sprinkle cooked greens with crumbled bacon or chopped hard-boiled eggs.
High in fiber, vitamins and minerals, Swiss chard is a "cruciferous" vegetable. This scientific name is given to vegetables that research has proven may provide protection against certain cancers. All cruciferous vegetables contain the an