Chard is a tall leafy green vegetable with a thick, crunchy stalk that comes in white, red or yellow with wide fan-like green leaves. Commonly referred to as Swiss chard and scientifically known as Beta vulgaris it belongs to the same family as beets and spinach and shares a similar taste profile with a flavor that is bitter, pungent, and slightly salty. Although Swiss chard is available throughout the year, its peak season runs from June through August when it is at its best and in the greatest abundance at your local supermarket.
The leaves may either be smooth or curly, depending upon the variety.. The stalk, which can measure almost two feet in length, comes in a variety of colors including white, red, yellow and orange. Sometimes, in the market, different colored varieties will be bunched together and labeled “rainbow chard.”
How to Select and Store
Choose leaves that are vivid green in color and that do not display any browning or yellowing. The leaves should not be wilted nor should they have tiny holes. The stalks should look crisp and be unblemished.
Do not wash Swiss chard before storing as the exposure to water encourages spoilage. Place chard in a plastic storage bag and wrap the bag tightly around the chard, squeezing out as much of the air from the bag as possible. Place in refrigerator where it will keep fresh for up to 5 days. If you have large batches of chard, you can blanch the leaves and then freeze them.
Tips for Preparing and Cooking
Rinse Swiss chard under cold running water. Do not soak chard as this will result in the loss of water-soluble nutrients to the water. Remove any area of the leaves that may be brown, slimy, or have holes.
Stack the leaves and slice into 1-inch slices until you reach the stems. Only the white stems of the Fordhook variety of chard are tender enough to eat. Cut stems into 1/2-inch slices discarding the bottom 1 inch portion. We don’t recommend cooking the stems of the varieties with colored stems.
A Few Quick Serving Ideas
- Toss pasta with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and cooked Swiss chard.
- Add zest to omelets and frittatas by adding some boiled Swiss chard.
- Use chard in place of or in addition to spinach when preparing vegetarian lasagna.