Swiss Chard 101

Today Dani Spies everything you need to know about buying, storing, prepping, and cooking Swiss chard. Just think of chard the same way you would think of spinach, and you’ll easily find 101 ways to use it.

What is it?
Chard, which is often referred to as Swiss chard, is a beautiful leafy green veggie that’s a part of the cruciferous family (having a corolla of four petals arranged like a cross). The cruciferous family is powerful and includes veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, watercress, and radishes. Chard is loaded with antioxidants like iron, calcium, vitamin C, and vitamin A. Plus it’s believed to promote lung health.

You will see it at the grocery store all year round, but its prime time is May-August. When we’re buying our produce local and in-season, not only does it taste better, but it’s better for you, and it’s less expensive. So we’re talking a win-win-win.

How to select the right one
When you’re buying chard, you want to look for leaves that are nice and vibrant. The leaves should be big and crisp – no wilting, yellowing, or tiny holes allowed. What you’ll notice is that the stems can vary in color. They come in yellow, orange, red, and cream – and whatever color the stem is, the veins will be as well. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you’ll see what’s called “rainbow chard”. This is when they bunch all of the different color varieties into one and sell them together. It’s absolutely beautiful, and if you see it, I highly recommend it.

How to store it
Once you get your chard home, stick it in a nice big plastic bag and put it in the fridge. It’ll last about 3-4 days.

How to prep and cook it
When you’re ready to use your chard, fill a nice big bowl or your kitchen sink with some cold water, and submerge the leaves, and swish them around a bit. All the debris will fall to the bottom, and the clean leaves will come to the top. Then take them out, dry them off on a kitchen towel, and you’re ready to work with them.

Separate the stem from the leaf. So take the tip of your knife, and bring it right up to the top of the stem where it gets nice and thin. And then just run your tip along the side where the leaf meets the stem, until you come all the way down. Then, do the same thing on the opposite side. You’re basically cutting a V.

Don’t throw the stems out, because they are completely edible. All you need to do is trim off any of the tough edges and they’re ready to go. As a matter of fact, one of my favorite ways to make them is to cut them into about 3-inch diagonals, parboil them 5-6 minutes, then take a small baking dish, spray it with a little bit of olive oil spray. Lay the stems out, drizzle with a teaspoon of olive oil, 2 tablespoons of Romano cheese, a little salt, and a little black pepper. Pop in a 400-degree oven for 20 minutes. And voila. You’ve got this beautiful, simple, elegant, unlikely side dish that’s out of this world.

If you were using the stems in a quick sauté, you would just slice them up the way you would a piece of celery. As for the leaves, you can grab them in bunches, pull them all together, and then slice them thin.

Idea: Wash and prep all of your greens on the weekend. Then, put them in a plastic bag with a paper towel to absorb any of excess moisture, and put them in the fridge. When the crazy week gets going, you’ll have them ready to go for a quick fix all week long.

Here is a super quick and simple way to make the chard.
Heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a non-stick sauté pan. Toss in the stems. Remember, they take a little bit longer to cook. Let them cook up for about 5 minutes or so, until they’re tender. Then toss in 1 clove of chopped garlic, along with your chard leaves. Season that with a little salt and pepper. Stir it all together. And once those leaves have wilted, about 3-4 minutes, it’s ready to go.

Flavor-wise, chard has a nice mild, earthy taste, and is definitely the sweetest of the leafy greens. You could eat this as-is, or you can mix it into a pasta dish, an egg dish, maybe mix it along with some beans. Chard goes really well with lentils. Or you could cook it up into a beautiful soup.

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