Swiss Chard

by Mark R. Vogel

            Chard is a type of beet which, along with spinach, is a plant in the goosefoot family; so named because some of the plants in this category have leaves shaped like their namesake.  Unlike traditional beets, chard roots are inedible.  Chard is prized for its large leaves and crunchy stalks.  The two main types found in most supermarkets are the red chard and the green.  The red has red stems and dark green leaves with red veins.  The green has lighter green leaves with white stalks.  The red variety has a stronger flavor.  

            Chard is often referred to as Swiss chard because of its extensive cultivation in Switzerland.  However, it is also widespread in the Mediterranean and particularly popular in the Provence and RhoneValley regions of France.  Swiss chard has also been referred to as silver beet, spinach beet, Sicilian beet, leaf beet, Chilian beet, sea kale beet, white beet, strawberry spinach, and Roman kale.  Talk about an identity crisis!  The word “chard” however, originally comes from the Latin word cardus which means thistle.  It evolved into the French word carde which the English then adopted as chard. 

            Chard has been consumed by man since at least the ancient Greeks.  More popular in Europe, American cooks have only modestly embraced it, tending to prefer spinach instead.  Chard has a slightly meatier texture and earthier flavor than spinach, but its leaves can be cooked in any manner you would its goosefoot family counterpart.  In fact, the general rule of thumb when cooking chard is to treat the leaves as you would spinach and the stems as you would asparagus.  In reality, there’s really not that much differentiation since either spinach, chard leaves or chard stems can be boiled, steamed, braised, and sautéed.  In addition to serving as a side dish, Swiss chard can be incorporated into stuffings, pasta sauces, soups, salads and other preparations. 

            Swiss chard is available year round but is best in summer.  Look for crisp, brightly colored leaves and stems.  Avoid specimens with cracked or dry stems, or leaves with discolorations and/or moist, wilted spots.  Chard is highly perishable so endeavor to use it as soon as possible.  You can store it in a plastic bag for up to three days in your fridge.  Chard is a cruciferous vegetable, meaning that it is high in anti-oxidants and thus proclaimed to possess cancer fighting properties.  Anti-carcinogenic or not, it is high in vitamins A and C, iron, potassium, and fiber. 

            To clean chard, submerge it repeatedly in a large bowl of water until the water runs clear.  To remove the stem, cut along each side of it toward the tip of the leaf until the stem thins out.  Chop the stem into whatever sized pieces you desire.  The leaves can be chopped but it isn’t a necessity. 




1 large batch of Swiss chard, stems removed

Olive oil as needed

Salt and pepper to taste

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2 oz. sherry

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar


            Heat a large skillet, add the oil, and then the chard leaves, salt and pepper.  When the chard has reduced and starts to soften add the garlic and sauté one more minute.  Add the sherry and the vinegar and cook on high until at least half the fluid has evaporated.  Add additional salt and pepper if necessary and serve.  If you would like to include the stems with the leaves, chop them and sauté them first.  Being harder they will need a head start.  Other optional ingredients include chopped shallots, diced bell pepper, or a sprinkle of nutmeg.  Sauté the shallots and bell pepper with the chard leaves before adding the garlic.  Nutmeg is added at the very end.




2 large shallots, chopped

Olive oil as needed

1 large batch Swiss chard, stems removed

Salt and pepper to taste

2 garlic cloves

Half cup chicken broth


            Sauté the shallots in the olive oil.  Or, if you are including the chard stems, chop them and sauté them first.  When they just start to soften add the shallots.  After the shallots soften add the chard leaves, salt and pepper.  As soon as the leaves reduce add the garlic and sauté one minute more.  Add the chicken broth, bring to a boil, reduce to low heat, cover, and cook until the chard is completely soft.  About 10 minutes. 




Stems from one batch of chard, chopped into small dice

1 large beet, chopped into small dice

1 yellow bell pepper, chopped into small dice

1 small red onion, chopped into small dice

2 stalks of celery, chopped into small dice

3 garlic cloves, finely minced

Parsley, chopped, to taste

Thyme, chopped to taste

Extra virgin olive oil, as needed

Champagne vinegar, as needed

Salt and pepper to taste


            If you only used the leaves for the sautéed or braised chard, here’s a recipe for the leftover stems.  Simply chop and combine all the vegetables and add parsley, thyme, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper to suit your taste.  If served immediately, the varying colors of the vegetables make for a visually striking and aesthetically interesting dish.  Resting the salad overnight improves the flavor but at the cost of the beet juices coloring everything a boringly uniform red.  Your choice. 




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