I know kale is the new favorite green, but Swiss chard is a wonderful, tasty, and healthy green you should have in your diet! Looking for a little more information about it and maybe a few ideas on how to use it beyond a simple saute? Well then, this is the post for you.
As with last month’s ingredient spotlight for rhubarb, I have some bullet points about Swiss chard – such as what it is, where it comes from, and nutritional info; and then I have a roundup of links to other recipes for chard. Onto the info!
What is it?
Swiss chard – also known as silverbeet, spinach-chard, or just spinach – is a leafy green with a thick, colorful rib going up the middle. It is closely related to beets (they have the same ancestor), but instead of cultivating them for the root as in beets, people wanted the flavorful leaves. Swiss chard comes in red rib varieties, white rib varieties, mixed (rainbow) varieties. Young chard is quite tender and can be used directly in salads. Mature chard is generally cooked in sautes, soups, and gratins. Chard is a cool weather plant, and you generally see fresh chard in the spring and in the fall. It is more heat tolerant than many of the cool weather greens, but you’ll get the best flavor when the weather isn’t too warm.
Where does it come from?
Swiss chard is very popular in Mediterranean cooking and is a descendant of the sea beet, which is found all along the coasts of Europe, Northern Africa, and Southern Asia. Sea beets were first cultivated thousands of years ago (over 4000 years!) in the Mediterranean, giving rise to sugar beets, beetroot, and Swiss chard. However, Swiss chard is not commonly found or used in Switzerland. Why is it called Swiss chard then? We’re not completely certain. Perhaps it was named Swiss for the Swiss scientist that classified it, or it was named to separate it from spinach, or maybe the previous name of Sicula (indicating its history in Sicily) got shifted into Swiss over the years.
What does it taste like?
Whatever the reason for its name, all I know is it’s tasty! The flavor is very similar to spinach. A little salty, a little bitter (especially larger, older leaves), and I find it also a bit sweet – probably from its relationship to beets. In fact, I’d say that there is a very appealing hint of beet in chard leaves and stems. Swiss chard can be used in any recipe that calls for cooking spinach or kale or greens, such as turnip greens or beet greens.
What’s the nutritional info?
Do you want healthy? Then Swiss chard is for you! It’s packed full of vitamins A, C, and K; is a great source of different minerals; and has fair amount of the B vitamins, iron, and calcium. Also, flavonoids! It has flavonoids, such as syringic acid, which is important in regulating blood sugar, as well as ones that are antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and with detoxifying effects.
How do you cook it?
Now that I’ve told you what it tastes like and why you should give it a try, here are a few recipes using Swiss chard which will take you beyond the simple saute. Not that there is anything wrong with a simply sauteed chard, but it’s nice to have a few other ideas.
- Double-Dutch Mac and Cheese with Chard – mac and cheese + greens! Healthy and yummy.
- Bietola e Patate (Swiss Chard and Potatoes) – by Lidia Bastianich for classic Italian take on chard.
- Greek Swiss Chard Pie – love spanakopita? Try this recipe for hortopita featuring Swiss chard.
- Swiss Chard Pancakes – it’s time for some French cuisine.
- Garlicky Lentil Soup with Swiss Chard and Lemon – rusta is a great classic Lebanese soup featuring chard and lentils.
- Orecchiette with Swiss Chard, Brown Butter & Walnuts – because sometimes you want a quick and yummy pasta dish.
And of course I have a few recipes myself (this list will be updated as I add more recipes to the site):