What Is Swiss Chard?

Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt

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.

Swiss chard features a variety of stem colors.
Swiss chard features a variety of stem colors.

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.

Chard can be boiled, steamed, or braised.
Chard can be boiled, steamed, or braised.

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.

Swiss chard is sometimes served raw in a leafy green salad.
Swiss chard is sometimes served raw in a leafy green salad.

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.

Swiss chard and other greens can be nutritious additions to an all-vegetable pizza.
Swiss chard and other greens can be nutritious additions to an all-vegetable pizza.

Meats can be included within recipes that use this vegetable. 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.

Swiss chard can be stir-fried with other fresh vegetables, including bell peppers or shallots.
Swiss chard can be stir-fried with other fresh vegetables, including bell peppers or shallots.

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 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 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.

Steak is often paired with chard.
Steak is often paired with chard.
Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt

A graduate of Southeast Missouri State University, Sara has a Master’s Degree in English, which she puts to use writing for wiseGEEK and several magazines, websites, and nonprofit organizations. She has published her own novella, and has other literary projects currently in progress. Sara’s varied interests have also led her to teach children in Spain, tutor college students, run CPR and first aid classes, and organize student retreats.

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