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Monday, January 5, 2015

Swiss Chard

Swiss Chard:

About:

Swiss Chard (Beta vulgaris) is a leafy green vegetable often used in Mediterranean cooking.  Swiss chard is much more popular in Europe than the U.S.   It is grown in every European country as well as parts of Asia, Africa, and South America, and to a lesser extent in North America.  In some cultivars the leaf stalks are large and often prepared separately from the leaf blade.  The shiny, ribbed leaves can be green or reddish in color, the leaf stalks  vary in color usually white, yellow or red.   Swiss chard is in the same family as beets and spinach.  It has been bred to have highly nutritious leaves and is considered one of the most healthful vegetables available.  

Common Names:

  • Swiss chard
  • silverbeet
  • perpetual spinach
  • spinach beet
  • crab beet 
  • bright lights
  • seakale beet
  • mangold

History:

Swiss chard is not native to Switzerland.  The first varieties of chard have been traced back to Sicily.   The Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote about chard in the 4th century B.C.  Both the Greeks and later the Romans prized chard for its medicinal properties. 


My Story:

Swiss chard was not something we had very often growing up.  It was something you might get occasionally at Grandma's.  Of course I had heard of it and so I knew the name.  It was not until I was at the supermarket that I dealt more with Swiss chard.  It was mainly trying to keep it fresh looking by trimming a slice off the stalks and soaking the bunch in cold water to rehydrate and freshen it.  In honesty it was not a very good seller but something we kept for the sake of variety.

Uses:

Fresh young chard can be used raw in salads.  Mature chard leaves and stalks are typically cooked or sauteed; their bitterness fades with cooking leaving a refined flavor which is more delicate than that of spinach.   Along with kale, mustard greens, and collard greens  Swiss chard is one of several leafy green vegetables referred to as "greens". 

Nutrition:

Swiss chard is high in vitamins A, K, and C.  It is rich in minerals including calcium and magnesium, dietary fiber, and protein.  

Health Benefits:

Many studies have shown that Swiss chard has unique benefits for blood sugar regulation.  Swiss chard offers an outstanding variety of conventional antioxidants.  Equally outstanding are chard's phytonutritional antioxidants which also act as anti-inflammatory agents.   With a very good supply of calcium and an excellent supply of magnesium and vitamin K chard provides excellent bone support. 

Season:

Swiss chard is available from April to December.    The peak season is June through August.


Selecting and Storing:

Choose chard that is held in a refrigerated display with leaves that are vivid green and do not show any signs of yellowing or browning.   Leaves should not be wilted or have tiny holes.  The stalks should look crisp and be unblemished.  
Don not wash Swiss chard before storing as water encourages spoilage.  Place chard in a plastic storage bag and wrap the bag tightly around the chard, squeezing out as much air as possible.  Place in the refrigerator where it will keep fresh up to 5 days.  

So........ Eat up!   Enjoy!   I'll show you how........................


Simple but Good:

Sauteed Swiss Chard with Onions 
2 large bunches of Swiss chard
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium onions cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced 
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
salt and pepper

Cut stems and center ribs from chard leaves discarding any tough portions.  Cut stems and ribs crosswise into 2 pieces.  Stack chard leaves and roll up lengthwise.  Cut cylinders crosswise make 1 inch wide strips.  Heat oil and butter in a large heavy pot until foam subsides, then cook onion and garlic with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper covered stirring occasionally until onion begins to soften (about 8 minutes).  Add chard stems and ribs, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper.  Cook covered until stems are just tender (about 10 minutes).  Add chard leaves in batches stirring until wilted before adding next batch and cook covered stirring occasionally until tender(4 to 6 minutes). Transfer with a slotted spoon to serving dish. 
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