Chard sometimes called Swiss chard, silverbeet, perpetual spinach and spinach beet (Beta vulgaris var. cicla) are all members of the beetroot family with which they share their botanical name Beta vulgaris, but in the case of these varieties it is the leaves which are developed rather than the root. Different names refer to slightly different varieties however, they are all essentially the same species.
With its shiny green or reddish ribbed leaves chard falls between spinach and kale in terms of toughness and bitterness, making it an extremely versatile green especially suited to cooking.
Silverbeet is characterised by it large dark ribbed leaves and thick white stems that bisect the leaves, while perpetual spinach and spinach beet both have finer leaves and stems than chard and silverbeet.
Chard has long been used by Mediterranean cooks who have used it as a flavouring for soups and rice dishes. It is also a popular vegetable in Provençe and in Nice is known as the ‘queen of vegetables’.
While chard is often thought as the poor cousin of spinach many cooks and gardeners, including us, think it should be celebrated for this own characteristics and not for any likeness to something else.
Apart from its robustness there are many good reasons to include chard in your diet – it is a good source of vitamin A (from beta-carotene) and vitamin C. It is also a source of dietary fibre, vitamin E, folate, vitamin B6 and potassium. In addition phytonutrients including carotenoids – lutein and zeaxanthin – and some flavounoids can be found in abundance in this nutritional powerhouse.
Availability: At The Chef’s Garden @ Epicurean chard is usually available year round, but is most plentiful through the cooler months – we grow several varietiess, including those with white, golden and red stems.
Goes with: anchovies; bacon; butter; capers; cheese; cream; eggs; garlic; olive oil; onions; pine nuts; tomatoes; and sultanas.
SELECTION, STORAGE, PREPARATION & USING
- Selection: Choose crisp green leaves with firm stalks which can vary in colour depending on the particular variety from white to gold to red – a mix of varieties adds colour and interest to dishes. Avoid leaves that are wilted or damaged.
- Storage: Store in a plastic bag in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator – do not wash before storing.
- Using: Both the stems and leaves are edible, however, the stems take longer to cook and it is usually recommended to cook these for at least 4-5 minutes before adding the leaves.
- Stir-frying, sautéing, braising and microwaving are all popular cooking methods for this versatile vegetable. The chopped or shredded leaves are also a tasty addition to soups, casseroles and stews – add towards the end of the cooking time – to make full use of the vegetable, chop the stems and cook them with onions or other aromatics.
- While young chard leaves are sometimes eaten raw, in most cases more mature leaves are cooked.
- Sautéed Chard: Trim tough ends from stems. Remove leaves from centre stem and set aside. Cut stems into 2.5cm pieces and set aside. Place leaves on top of each other to make a stack, then roll up and cut into 2.5cm wide strips. Place a good splash of olive oil and 2 chopped onions in a large heavy-based frying pan over a medium-low heat, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8-10 minutes or until onions start to soften. Add stems, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes longer or until stems are tender. Season to taste with a good grind of sea salt and black pepper.
Recipes using chard or silverbeet:
- Potatoes & Chard in Garlicky Saffron Broth
- Bacon, Ricotta & Chard Open Sandwich
- Spicy Sautéed Swiss Chard & Onions
- Beef with Silverbeet and Middle Eastern Spices
- One-Pan Beef, Rice & Vegetables
- Roasted Vegetables & Chickpeas
- Creamy Spiced Spinach Beet
- Oyster Mushroom & Spinach Beet Braise
- Warm Squash, Silverbeet & Feta Salad
- Chicken, Silverbeet & Potato Hotpot
- Cheesy Vegetable & Potato Pie