Beta vulgaris

Though often called ‘Swiss chard’, chard is actually a Mediterranean plant, and the ancestor of the common beet.

Edible Parts: stem and leaf

Nutrition: Chard contains large amounts of vitamin A, E, and C, as well as iron and calcium. It is comparable to spinach because of its mild yet flavorful taste, but it has an advantage over spinach. Since it contains no oxalic acid like spinach does, the minerals are more easily absorbed.

Processing & Storage: Chard should be used as soon as possible, but kept properly it can last up to 4 days. Keep refrigerated inside a plastic bag or wrapped in a damp cloth. Do not allow the leaves to dry out.

For long-term storage, chard can be frozen. To prepare for freezing, blanch for 3 minutes, rinse, shake or squeeze most of the water out, and put into ziploc bags.

Cooking: Wash leaves by gently swirling them in water. Young, smaller leaves can be cooked whole, but larger, more mature leaves may have tough stems that should be removed prior to cooking.

For steaming, cut stems into chunks and leaves into diagonal ribbons. Steam for 5 minutes, remove leaves, and allow stems to steam an additional 3-5 minutes. Toss in olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Add chard to stir-fries to add color and flavor. Add stems and leaves to vegetable soups.

Chard is also good as a substitute for spinach, being similar in flavor and its minerals more easily absorbed.