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Swiss chard

Why Eat It
Varieties
Availability
Shopping
Storage
Preparation
Nutrition Chart


Why Eat It

One of the easiest vegetables to grow--it will keep growing right through the winter--Swiss chard is a good source of beta-carotene and dietary fiber. Also known as chard, these greens come from a variety of beet grown for its stems and leaves, not its root; their distinctive flavor is akin to (but milder than) that of beet greens. The dark green leaves are wider and flatter than beet greens, and they have a a full-bodied texture similar to spinach (for which chard is a good substitute). The fleshy stalks and ribs are either white or, in red (ruby) chard, a jewel-like red. Unlike many greens, the stalks of Swiss chard are completely edible; in fact, in European countries they are considered the best part of the plant. Unless the chard is young, though, the stalks should be separated from the leaves and given a little extra cooking time.

Varieties

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.

Availability

Swiss chard is most widely available from April through November.

Shopping

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--and purchase only moist, crisp, unwilted greens, unblemished by tiny holes, which indicate insect damage. Be sure that the stems are juicy and crisp.

Storage

Wrap unwashed Swiss chard in damp paper towels, then place in a plastic bag; store in the refrigerator crisper for three to five days.

Preparation

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 and swirl the leaves around in a large bowl of cool water. Lift out, letting the sand and grit settle; repeat if necessary. Slice or chop as recipe directs.

Whenever possible, use the cooking liquid from chard in a sauce or add it to a soup; a significant percentage of the nutrient content of greens is released into the liquid as they cook. Don't heat Swiss chard in an aluminum pot; the chard contains oxalates and it will cause the pot to discolor. Start cooking the stems a few minutes before adding the leaves. Quick cooking will help to preserve the color as well as the nutrients.

Blanching: If the chard is going to be used in a baked dish, such as a savory tart, it's often a good idea to blanch the chard first, especially if it's more mature and the leaves aren't as tender. Drop stems and leaves in boiling salted water for two minutes. Drain and pat dry.

Sauteing: Saute sliced stems in a little olive oil and garlic for three minutes. Add sliced leaves and saute until liquid from greens has evaporated and chard is tender, five to seven minutes total cooking time.

Braising: Briefly saute stems, add greens and saute one minute longer. Add a small amount of broth and cook until chard is tender and a small amount of liquid remains, about five minutes longer.

Microwaving: This method is a good substitute for blanching. Place 1/2 pound of chard (washed but not dried) in a microwavable dish; cover loosely and cook until tender. Cooking time: three minutes.

Steaming: Tender chard will cook quickly enough to be steamed in just the water that clings to the leaves after washing. Steam whole or coarsely chopped. Place in a heavy skillet add 1/2" of water or broth, cover and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until the chard is wilted. Chard can also be steamed in a vegetable steamer over boiling water. Cooking time: five to seven minutes.

For Dessert: In France and Italy, Swiss chard is often made into a sweet tart. The chard should be chopped and either steamed over water, blanched until tender, or sauteed in a little olive oil or butter before being placed in a tart shell, topped with a sweetened custard and baked. It often contains orange zest and raisins.

Nutrition Chart

Swiss Chard/1 cup cooked

35
Total fat (g)
0.1
Saturated fat (g)
0
Monounsaturated fat (g)
0
Polyunsaturated fat (g)
0.1
Dietary fiber (g)
3.7
3
Carbohydrate (g)
7
Cholesterol (mg)
0
Sodium (mg)
313
Beta-carotene (mg)
3.3
Vitamin C (mg)
32
Vitamin E (mg)
3.3
Vitamin K (mcg)
245
Iron (mg)
4
Magnesium (mg)
150
Manganese (mg)
0.6
Potassium (mg)
961


Date Published: 04/21/2005
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