Chard

Chard is a good source of beta-carotene and dietary fiber. Also known as Swiss Chard, these greens come from a variety of beet grown for its stems and leaves, not its root. Their distinctive flavor is akin to (but milder than) that of beet greens. The dark green leaves are wider and flatter than beet greens, and they have a a full-bodied texture similar to spinach (for which chard is a good substitute). The fleshy stalks and ribs are either white or, in red (ruby) chard, a jewel-like red.

Unlike many greens, the stalks of chard are completely edible; in fact, in European countries they are considered the best part of the plant. Unless the chard is young, though, the stalks should be separated from the leaves and given a little extra cooking time.

Storing and Cooking

Wrap unwashed chard in damp paper towels, then place in a plastic bag; store in the refrigerator crisper for three to five days.

Wash chard leaves and stems before using, as they are likely to have sand or dirt clinging to them. Separate the leaves from the stems and swirl the leaves around in a large bowl of cool water. Lift out, letting the sand and grit settle; repeat if necessary. Slice or chop as recipe directs.

Whenever possible, use the cooking liquid from chard in a sauce or add it to a soup; a significant percentage of the nutrient content of greens is released into the liquid as they cook. Don't heat chard in an aluminum pot; the chard contains oxalates and it will cause the pot to discolor. Start cooking the stems a few minutes before adding the leaves. Quick cooking will help to preserve the color as well as the nutrients.

Try these basic cooking methods:

Blanching: If the chard is going to be used in a baked dish, such as a savory tart, it's often a good idea to blanch the chard first, especially if it's more mature and the leaves aren't as tender. Drop stems and leaves in boiling salted water for two minutes. Drain and pat dry.

Sauteing: Saute sliced stems in a little olive oil and garlic for three minutes. Add sliced leaves and saute until liquid from greens has evaporated and chard is tender, five to seven minutes total cooking time.

Braising: Briefly saute stems, add greens and saute one minute longer. Add a small amount of broth and cook until chard is tender and a small amount of liquid remains, about five minutes longer.

Microwaving: This method is a good substitute for blanching. Place 1/2 pound of chard (washed but not dried) in a microwavable dish; cover loosely and cook until tender. Cooking time: three minutes.

Steaming: Tender chard will cook quickly enough to be steamed in just the water that clings to the leaves after washing. Steam whole or coarsely chopped. Place in a heavy skillet add 1/2" of water or broth, cover and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until the chard is wilted. Chard can also be steamed in a vegetable steamer over boiling water. Cooking time: five to seven minutes.

For Dessert: In France and Italy, chard is often made into a sweet tart. The chard should be chopped and either steamed over water, blanched until tender, or sauteed in a little olive oil or butter before being placed in a tart shell, topped with a sweetened custard and baked. It often contains orange zest and raisins.

Chard Recipes:

Gina's Zesty Chard

Did you know?

The wealthiest fifth of the world's people consume 86% of all goods and services, while the poorest fifth consumes one percent.
~United Nations, 2002

Quotes

"If a man walks in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer. But if he spends his days as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making the earth bald before her time, he is deemed an industrious and enterprising citizen."
~Henry David Thoreau

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