Chard is a leafy vegetable, it is a member of the beet family. Unlike beetroot which are primarily harvested for their roots, chard is grown for it’s crunchy stalks and larger tender leaves. For many thousands of years chard has been cultivated, it most likely originates in the Mediterranean, where it was incredibly popular until the introduction of spinach.
There are many different varieties of chard, this delightful vegetable is known by many names including Swiss chard, sea kale beet, white beet, Sicilian beet, Roman kale, spinach beet, perpetual spinach, mangold, bright lights, crab beet, strawberry kale and silver beet.
The name chard originates from the French word “carde”, which refers to the artichoke thistle or cardoon.
It is possible to eat chard raw or cooked. When the leaves are tender and young they are commonly used in salads. As it matures it can be sautéed or added to recipes, the leaves and stems become tougher and the taste is more bitter, the cooking process helps to mellow the flavour.
This variety is also known as silver beet and perpetual spinach. The leaves are shiny, ribbed and tender with a deep green colour and white stalks. Taste wise this variety is very similar to spinach, although it has a more bitter flavour. The ribbed leaves can often become quite muddy, so it is important to wash any dirt off before use. After washing it is best kept wrapped in a paper towel and refrigerated, under these conditions it should keep for up to four days.
The name may mislead some into thinking that it originates in Switzerland. The word Swiss was added to distinguish it from French spinach varieties in 19th century seed catalogues.
Although not strictly speaking an actual variety, rainbow chard is in fact a mixture of Swiss, red and golden chards. Each colour has a different flavour that works together to produce superb flavour profiles. Swiss brings a mineral edge, whilst red has an earthy sweetness the golden has a mild and nutty flavour.
Chard – a nutritional powerhouse.
No matter what colour it is chard is highly nutritious, packed full of vitamins A, K and C. It is also rich in iron, potassium, dietary fibre and even protein. While high in nutrients it is low in calories, with around 19 calories per 100 grams of raw leaves. Studies have shown that a diet containing these vitamins and minerals include the following benefits:
- Prevention of colon cancer.
- Boosting cognitive development.
- Regulating blood sugar.
- Improves blood circulation.
- Reduces risk of strokes and diabetes.
- Stimulation of bone growth and development.