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What Is Swiss Chard?

Chard can be boiled, steamed, or braised.
Swiss chard features a variety of stem colors.
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  • Written By: Sara Schmidt
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 18 August 2014
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A tall, leafy green vegetable, Swiss chard is commonly used in vibrant Mediterranean cooking, as well as in Palestinian dishes. Fresh Swiss chard features deep, crinkly green leaves and a rainbow of stem colorations, including pink, red, orange, white, and yellow. Though served raw in salads, the foods are commonly cooked to rid them of their bitter flavor.

Descended from the sea beet, Swiss chard is known by many other names. Along with simply chard, the vegetable is also called crab beet, silverbeet, mangold, perpetual spinach, seakale beet, and spinach beet. Its leaves are shiny and ribbed, creating a visually appealing texture and color when served either raw or cooked.

Cooked chard has a taste similar to spinach, though not as strong. Many chefs sauté the vegetable with any seasonings preferred. Butter, salt, and oil are traditionally used to prepare the greens, though any other herbs and spices, such as garlic, basil, red pepper, nutmeg, black pepper, cumin, and any other favorite flavors, may be used as well.

Many different vegetables go well with Swiss chard. Diced tomatoes are a favorite serving with the vegetable, providing it with a sweet flavor, as well as contrasting color. Red-skinned potatoes are another vegetable that pairs well with the leafy greens. Onions and most other vegetables can be prepared with the food as well.

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Meats can be included within a Swiss chard recipe. Steak is a favorite meal paired with chard. Meat pies can be made with the ingredient. Some cooks even prepare the vegetable with cheeses, such as feta or Parmesan. It can also be a tasty ingredient in baked meals, wraps, sandwiches, salads, or creamy pasta sauces.

To prepare chard for consumption, wash the vegetable leaves thoroughly and drain them as completely as possible. Heat a small amount of oil in a frying pan, adding any seasonings desired. Toss in the Swiss chard and cook over medium heat for up to five minutes. Many cooks enjoy adding shallots or scallions to the recipe; others might season it with balsamic dressing or lemon juice.

Raw chard is considered to be very perishable. It should be used soon after purchase or harvesting. When growing Swiss chard, a gardener may cut the plant for use at any time, whether the leaves of the plant are young or older. Older chard tends to have a tougher texture than the softer young leaves.

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