Chard belongs to the same family as beets and spinach. There are several different varieties of chard. The leaves can be smooth or curly, and the stalk comes in three colors: white, red, and yellow. We bunch the different colored stems together and call them rainbow chard.
It is native to the Mediterranean region, and anciently was honored for its medicinal properties by Greeks and Romans. The juice from the plant was used as a decongestant, and the leaves were said to neutralize acid and have a laxative effect. Because it contains oxalic acid, it is best used moderately by people with a calcium deficiency. It is a powerful anti-cancer food because it is high in chlorophyll and carotenes. It is also high in vitamin K.
Chard is almost as quick cooking as spinach, and both the stems and the leaves are edible. I usually de-stem the leaves first by running my fingers down the stem. Then I wash the leaves thoroughly in a big bowl of water, changing the water a few times until no dirt or grit remains. I wash the stems separately. This makes it possible to chop the leaves and stems separately since the leaves tend to cook quicker than the stems. Chard can be prepared in many ways:
- Raw in salads...it adds a unique color and taste to green salads
- Sauteed, try with garlic, onion, and a pinch of cayenne
- Added to soups, stews, casseroles
- Added to quiches, frittatas, and scrambled eggs
- Cooked in lasagna
- Substituted for spinach in any of your favorite recipes
"Delicious! The best chard I've ever had." We found this recipe in Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. The paprika gives a rich depth to the chard.
Yield: About 4 servings
2 large bunches chard, leaves sliced into 1-inch ribbons
chard stems, chopped
1 onion, diced
1/2 cup cilantro
1/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon paprika
1 garlic clove, minced
salt and pepper
Place all ingredients in a wide, heavy pot with a few pinches salt. Add 1/4 cup water, cover tightly, and cook over low heat for 45 minutes. Check once or twice to make sure there's enough moisture. If anything is sticking, add a few tablespoons water. When done, taste for salt and season with pepper. The chard should be silky and very fragrant.