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What Is Swiss Chard?

What Is Swiss Chard?

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With its distinctive bright red, orange, pink, and yellow stalks and its large, fan-like leaves, Swiss chard is the peacock of dark, leafy greens. But as with many unfamiliar foods, some people may approach Swiss chard with some trepidation. They may be wondering things like: How do I prepare it? How can I pick a good bunch? And most importantly, what does it taste like, and will I like it?

Despite the trepidation, there’s one thing most people will already know by instinct: Swiss chard is really good for you. The vibrant hues are nature’s way of shouting, “Eat me!” and with good reason. The pigments that make Swiss chard colorful have been shown to be powerful antioxidants, naturally occurring substances that combat cell-damaging free radicals in your body. Swiss chard is also an excellent source of vitamins A, C, E, and K, and a great source of iron, potassium, manganese, and magnesium. It’s in the same family as beets, which also come in a variety of eye-catching colors (it’s easy to see the relation).

So with that said, what’s the best way to maximize the nutritional value of Swiss chard? Swiss chard reaches its peak in the summer, although it is available year-round in many markets nowadays. Select bunches that have crisp, dark green leaves free from blemishes or holes, and snappy-looking stalks. Keep them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to three days. When ready to cook them, wash the leaves thoroughly under cold running water. Separate the leaves from the stalks, and remove the tips of the stalks as they can be difficult to chew. (It’s often easier to work with the leaves if you cut them up into pieces first.) Generally, you’ll want to cook the stalks first since they take slightly longer than the leaves; they’re pretty versatile and can be steamed, boiled, braised, or sautéed. After the stalks have cooked for a bit, add the leaves. Keep cooking time to a minimum to preserve the delicate nutrients in this cruciferous vegetable.

Now, here’s the really important question. What does it taste like? Chances are, if you like spinach, you’ll like Swiss chard; the two are often compared to each other since the leaves taste similar and the vegetable can be prepared in a similar fashion — it’s used as a side dish all on its own, in pastas, and in casseroles. You can even eat the leaves raw, like salad greens. But there’s one thing you can do with it that you’d be hard-pressed to do with spinach: make giant tamales. Whatever you decide to do, though, make sure not to overcook it; if the leaves start to turn olive-gray, you’ve botched it. (Photo courtesy of Quentin Bacon)

Now that we’ve hopefully inspired you and filled your head with some great cooking ideas, it’s time to go out and be adventurous. Run to the store, and don’t come back until you’ve got some chard.

Photography: Caitlin Bensel Food Styling: Anna Hampton Prop Styling: Thom Driver.

Swiss chard (also known as chard, silverbeet, spinach beet, perpetual spinach, crab beet, and mangold) is a green leafy vegetable that is related to both spinach and beets. Swiss chard actually has nothing to do with Switzerland—it actually originated in the Mediterranean. This misnomer can likely be attributed to the fact that it was first described by a Swiss botanist in the 1700s.

Chard, which is entirely edible, has green leaves with stalks that range in color from pale yellow to red. The leaves taste like a milder spinach, though they are still somewhat bitter. The stems are slightly sweet.

Though it’s often thought of as a winter vegetable since it tolerates frost better than other vegetables, Swiss chard also grows well in summer.

Sautéed Swiss Chard

This is an easy way to sauté Swiss chard: cook garlic and onions in a pan with a bit of oil, when the onions are translucent add the chopped Swiss chard. Cook until tender, anywhere from 7 to 10 minutes.

As with all dark leafy greens you'll want to add a citrusy component which will jazz up the flavor but, more importantly, will help your body absorb the iron in the greens. This could be a squeeze of fresh lemon juice at the end, the addition of segmented oranges, or even sliced mango if you are into sweet and savory combos.

Green, leafy vegetables are always good sources of fiber and vitamins. Swiss chard contains impressive amounts of vitamins A, B, C and K. When combined, these vitamins can enhance immunity against diseases, strengthen bone, aid metabolism and improve brain activity. Swiss chard is also packed with iron, which is important for the blood cells and the circulation of oxygen.

There is no need to worry about calories with Swiss chard. It only contains about 20 calories per 100 grams. With such a low calorie count and a range of nutrients, you can add it to every meal while still managing your weight. It is cholesterol-free, which is good news for those with heart conditions.

Chard is also low in carbohydrates. If you are diabetic, you can add it to your menu to keep your glucose levels in check. It is a super-food for those with bone-related illnesses like osteoporosis. People with vitamin deficiencies can also reap big benefits by including this vegetable in their diet.

What do I do with the stems of Swiss chard?

In this country, chard is prized mainly for its crinkly leaves, but Schneider is baffled by Americans who lop off the stems and discard them, missing out on their celery-like crunch when raw and mellow flavor when cooked. Plus, the stems of rainbow chard, one of several varieties, come in about as many eye-popping colors as Pucci’s summer collection: chartreuse, candy pink, magenta, cherry, lemon yellow, and orange, among others. (Although I can appreciate the stems, I’m an inveterate leaf man. I like the deep, earthy flavor, especially when sautéed in butter and sprinkled with a pinch of fleur de sel and freshly ground pepper.)

Best 6 Swiss chard substitute

There are many vegetables which you can use instead of swiss chard. Some of the substitutes mentioned below:

  • Dark leafy greens: Dark leafy greens are an excellent source of iron and vitamins. They have big crisp leaves like Swiss chard. These greens taste very similar to swiss chard after cooked.
  • Beet Greens: Beet greens are very popular because of their flavor. They taste like both beets and kale together. Beet greens play as an amazing substitute for Swiss chard.
  • Collard greens: Collard greens are a staple of Southern American cooking. They can be eaten raw like swiss chard. Both of these vegetable’s taste is pretty similar. Collard greens are a fantastic substitute for Swiss chard.
  • Mature Spinach: Mature Spinach is bigger than regular Spinach. They have big leaves. Their leaves are bright green and crisp, just like Swiss chard. Both of these have some kind of taste. That is why they are considered a decent substitute for Swiss chard.
  • Mustard greens: Mustard greens are known because of their strong peppery taste. They come to different colors just like Swiss chard.
  • Spinach: It is the top substitute of Swiss chard. It has long green leaves like swiss chard. Also, they taste and look quite the same.

Why substitute for swiss chard?

Swiss chard is considered a superfood. But sometimes It may not be found. You can not find swiss chard in many countries. That’s when you can use substitutions of swiss chard.

How to harvest Swiss chard?

Harvesting Swiss chard is very easy. Sow your seed of swiss chard on an open and sunny space. Try to grow them on soil that is moist and fertile.

A week before sowing the seeds, mix some fertilizers with the soil. Try sowing the seeds anytime between spring and late summer.

If the soil is dry, moist it with some water first. Then sow the seeds about 1 inch apart from each. Try to water them frequently for healthy growth. Start harvesting the chards as soon as they reach a usable size. Pick ½ leaves from a plant. It allows them to grow new leaves.

Swiss chard is one of the easy plants to harvest, and it doesn’t take much hard work too.

Swiss chard vs. Spinach

Both Swiss chard and Spinach are similar in look. They also taste quite the same. Both of them grow from seeds. And they favor the same growing conditions. Nutritionally, they have similarities too. Both of these loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and irons. Both of them are each other’s substitute. Swiss chard and Spinach are both t different plans. But they have so many similarities that it is hard to differentiate them from each other.

No Swiss Chard? – Here Are The Swiss Chard Substitute!

If you have already tasted Swiss chard and have suddenly craved for some but the stocks are not available? Worry no more as we have rolled out a few but a good substitute for Swiss chard!

  • Spinach – since this Swiss chard came from the spinach family, you can never go wrong with this when choosing it as a substitute. It has an appealing green color that makes your salads and pasta more aesthetic.
  • Beet Greens – this type offers a little more intense flavor than other leafy greens. It also has a purple to red stem that can add extra colors to your dish.
  • Collard Greens – this one’s another perfect substitute for Swiss Chard as it has almost the same taste and qualities. It is also a staple food to Southern American cuisine, thus, more likely to be always available on the market.

Off the Beaten Aisle: Rainbow Chard

Which doesn’t make sense. Except it does. Because it’s chard, one of a growing number of common yet often overlooked greens lurking at your grocer.

Chard -- sometimes called Swiss chard or rainbow chard (when it sports brightly colored stalks) -- really is a relative of the beet.

But unlike traditional beets -- which put their energy into producing finger-staining roots, chard instead produces big, tender leaves and crunchy stalks.

Chard has been around for thousands of years and likely originated in the Mediterranean, where it was in heavy culinary rotation until spinach came along.

The taste depends on which part you eat, though not so much on which color. The large, firm leaves are mild, sweet, earthy and just slightly bitter on the whole, it’s a bit milder than spinach.

The stalks -- which can be white, yellow, red, purple, pink, striped and so on -- resemble flat celery with a sweet taste slightly reminiscent of beets.

Why is it sometimes called Swiss chard? No one knows, but we do know it has nothing to do with Switzerland.

When shopping for chard, look for bright, firm leaves and stalks. Wrapped in plastic and refrigerated, it will keep for two to four days.

How do you use it? The simple explanation is to use the leaves as you would spinach, and use the stalks as you would asparagus.

But I tend to think that oversimplifies things. It also requires that you treat chard as two separate vegetables, the greens and the stalks.

I mean, I’m as OCD as the next guy, but there’s no way I’m separating my greens into two parts for different cooking. Who has that sort of time?

I prefer to roughly chop the leaves and finely chop the thicker stalks this helps the two parts cook in about the same time. And I enjoy the contrast between the more tender leaves and the crunchier stalks.

Generally, any flavor that works well with spinach will partner with chard, including butter, lemon, cream, garlic, shallots and vinaigrette.

In fact, if you do nothing more than briefly steam or sauté chopped chard, then toss it with any (or any combination) of those, you’ll have a great side dish.

In Spain and Portugal, for example, chard is sautéed with olive oil, garlic, pine nuts and sometimes raisins, then dressed with lemon juice. Need more ideas?

• Add chopped raw chard to salads, especially with a lemon-juice vinaigrette. Raw chard can have an assertive taste, so start with a little and see what you think.

• Sauté chopped chard with diced onion, then use it as a filling in omelets or mixed into frittatas.

• Mix finely chopped chard into your favorite turkey stuffing recipe.

• Finely slice the leaves and stalks, then stir into chicken or white bean and pasta soups during the final few minutes of simmering.

• Sauté chopped chard with onions and diced pancetta, bacon or prosciutto, then use the mixture as an amazing pizza topping.

• Toss chopped chard with cooked pasta, red pepper flakes, olive oil, Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper. The residual heat of the cooked pasta will nicely wilt the chard.

The bacon also can be jettisoned (but why would you?). If you must, cooked chicken or sausage would be fine alternatives.

In Season: Swiss Chard

This leafy green is in season and ready to bring nutritional goodness to your table.

Chard (aka Swiss chard) is a member of the beet family, but doesn't produce an edible bulb. This green leafy has crinkly green leaves and silver stalks resembling celery ribs. Both the leaves and stalks are edible and the flavor is a cross between spinach and beets. The stems have an earthier beet flavor but are still delicious (even if you’re not a huge beet fan).

Common varieties include Ruby Chard, Rhubarb Chard, and Rainbow Chard. Ruby Chard has bright red stalks and deep red veins while Rhubarb Chard has dark green leaves with a reddish stalk and a stronger flavor. Rainbow Chard are other colorful chard varieties bunched together. The stalk colors vary from pink, orange, red, purple, white with red stripes, and ivory with pink stripes. Chard is in season during late summer into fall.

One cup of cooked Swiss chard has 35 calories, 3 grams of protein, and 4 grams of fiber. It has over 700 times the recommended daily amount of vitamin K and over 200 times the recommended daily amount of the antioxidant vitamin A. Chard is also rich in vitamin C, iron, magnesium, potassium, and manganese. It also has lutein, shown to help with eye health. This green leafy veggie is also part of the cruciferous vegetable (cabbage) family, which has been shown to help with cancer prevention.

To prepare chard, wash well under cool water to get rid of any dirt or pebbles. Also, avoid cooking chard in aluminum cookware as it will change color because of to the oxalates (naturally existing compounds) in the chard.

Chard can be used just like spinach. Use it in a lasagna or pasta dishes, add it to soup or sauté it with olive oil and garlic. The stem can be used as a substitute for broccoli or asparagus in dishes like in an egg frittata, omelet or stir-fry.

Choosing and Storage Tips: Choose chard with tender greens and crisp stalks and avoid those that are wilted or with brown or yellowing spots. Place fresh chard in a resealable plastic bag in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. Store for up to 3 days.

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. See Toby's full bio »


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