Chard was an important part of the diet until the end of the 18th century, when other greens like spinach largely replaced the vegetable. Fortunately for our palates and health, chard is slowly but surely on the rise again.
- ...strengthens your immune system. Even a relatively small portion of chard (200 g) fulfills about 80% of the average daily requirement of vitamin C. If you drink a glass of orange juice with it, you’ve more than met your target!
- ...makes your bones stronger. Chard is one of the few vegetables that can even compete with dairy products in terms of calcium content. 3.5 oz of chard contains about 105 mg of calcium, which helps keep teeth and bones strong.
- ...has more protein than most vegetables. 7 oz of chard contains around 2.2 g of protein, which is especially helpful for vegetarians or those who don’t regularly eat meat.
- ...supports skin and eye health. Chard contains Vitamin A, which has been shown to help with good eyesight and clear skin.
- ...promotes healthy blood. With 2.7 mg of iron per 3.5 oz, chard provides a considerable amount of the mineral that is so important for blood formation and oxygen transportation in the body.
- ...wilts relatively quickly. Chard is best when prepared as quickly as possible, as it only stays crisp and fresh for 1-2 days in the refrigerator.
- ...isn't for everyone. Chard contains relatively large amounts of oxalic acid, which can cause stomach issues for people with gout or kidney problems, or anyone with a sensitive stomach. Drinking a glass of milk with chard can help, as it neutralizes the acid.
What You Should Know About Chard
Chard has recently made a comeback, after vegetables like spinach largely began to replace chard in many people’s diets around the turn of the 20th century. Recently however, chard has made a comeback on the menus of fine dining establishments and in the pantries of home cooks as well. The chard, which botanically belongs to the goosefoot family, does not resemble spinach at all on the outside, but it tastes similarly - only much more aromatic and spicy.
In ancient times, chard grew wild in the coastal areas around the Mediterranean. For the last several centuries however, the vegetable has also been cultivated, and no longer only in its native southern Europe: chard now grows in the Netherlands and Switzerland, among other places.
Chard has a flavor reminiscent of spinach, albeit a little more intense and tart. Chard stems have a rather mild, "vegetable" aroma.
Is Chard Actually Healthy?
Chard has long had a reputation as an effective natural healing plant. Centuries ago, chard was considered to be particularly beneficial for nervousness and restlessness; it was also used to treat against constipation. In addition to a high content of minerals (especially iron, phosphorus, potassium and magnesium), chard is a fantastic source of vitamin A, and has no less than 38 mg of vitamin C per 3.5 oz.
People who do not tolerate oxalic acid well should eat chard leaves only occasionally. Although there is less oxalic acid in them than in spinach, very large leaves in particular can cause issues for those with a sensitive stomach.
|Chard Nutritional Info (100 g)|
Shopping and Cooking Tips
With chard, you can generally recognize best quality and optimal freshness just by looking at it. Stems and leaves should appear fresh, with a strong green color, and no yellow or brown spots.
Always chop chard as fresh as possible from the market. You should not store chard in your refrigerator for longer than 1-2 days, otherwise it will become limp and lose its useful nutrients rapidly.
Leaves and stems are best prepared and cooked separately, as the stems need a slightly longer cooking time. The preparation itself is relatively quickly: cut leaves from the stem and wash them thoroughly (the lower leaf veins often contain a lot of sand and soil). Then wash the stems as well, removing hard threads and any brown spots, and cut the stem into small pieces. Depending on the recipe, you can leave the leaves whole or cut them into strips; they are added to the stems in a pot or pan 3-4 minutes before the end of cooking time.
Preparation Tips for Chard
One of the simplest and tastiest ways to prepare chard is by steaming it: briefly sauté the stems in some butter or grapeseed oil, then cook gently over a low to medium heat for 4-5 minutes. Add the leaves, steam briefly, and stir in some cream if necessary. Bring everything to boil at once, then season to taste with salt, pepper and freshly grated nutmeg. Voila! You have a delicious side dish for meat, fish, poultry or egg dishes.
You can also prepare chard as you would spinach leaves. The leaves taste great on their own or with cheese or nuts as a side dish for fish, meat and poultry or eggs.
Some chefs also like to prepare chard’s tender stems as they would asparagus: simply steam until firm to the bite, and serve with potatoes and a meat entree.
Raw red chard is particularly decorative in salads, but can also be prepared in a Mediterranean style. Prepare the vegetables as described above, but then fry them in good olive oil and instead of cream add a dash of good balsamic vinegar at the end. Possibly sprinkle with roasted pine nuts; also freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino are perfect. Served with fresh bread, this makes for a quick and delicious appetizer.