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Swiss Chard

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Preview of Swiss Chard

Available

July 15 - November 15

Harvest Period

July 15 - November 15

Swiss chard, along with kale, mustard greens and collard greens, is one of several leafy green vegetables often referred to as "greens". Chard has a thick, crunchy stalk to which fan-like wide green leaves are attached. The leaves may either be smooth or curly, depending upon the variety, and feature lighter-coloured ribs running throughout. The stalk, which can measure almost two feet in length, comes in a variety of colors including white, red, yellow and orange. When different coloured leaves are bunched together, they are sold as “rainbow chard”.

What to Look For

Look for leaves that have strong, vivid colour and 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 unblemished, with neither brown nor curling ends.

Cleaning and Preparation

Wash the chard well to remove any sand or soil that may be hidden in the leaves. Immerse the leaves in a bowl of cool water, swirl them around to remove any dirt and then quickly rinse in cool running water. The thick, main stem can be cut away from the leaves and cooked separately.

Do not cook chard in an aluminum pot since the oxalates contained in the chard will react with the metal and cause the pot to discolour.  Chard can be steamed or sautéed. However, to help free the oxalic acids and make the chard less bitter, swiss chard can be quickly cooked in boiling water. Once cooked, chard can be used like spinach in any pasta, soup, quiche or stew.

Storage

To store, place unwashed chard in the refrigerator in a plastic bag. It will keep fresh for several days. If you have large batches of chard, blanch the leaves in boiling water for 1 minute, place in freezer bags and store for up to 6 months in the freezer.

Nutritional Information

Chard belongs to the same family as beets and spinach and shares a similar taste profile: it has the bitterness of beet greens and the slightly salty flavour of spinach leaves. If vegetables got grades for traditional nutrients alone, Swiss chard would be one of our vegetable heroes. Swiss chard has very high concentrations of vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, magnesium, manganese, potassium, iron, and dietary fibre. Swiss chard also emerges as a very good or good source of copper, calcium, riboflavin, vitamin B6, and vitamin E . Chard is also a very good source of the phytonutrients, anthocyans.

One cup of cooked swiss chard provides 35 calories, 0g fat, 7g carbohydrate, 4g dietary fibre, and 3g protein.

How to Use

Both the leaves and stalk of chard are edible, although the stems vary in texture with the white ones being the most tender. Classic preparations are to blanche the chard leaves and then sauté in olive oil, garlic and chili peppers.   The leaves can also be steamed in a small amount of broth or wine, eaten as is or added to other dishes. For a different twist, use the leaves as wraps around meat, grain, or vegetable stuffings and either steam or roast in the oven or on the grill. Essentially, swiss chard can be used in any recipe that calls for spinach or kale.

To make the most of the ribs, blanche them for 2 minutes, cover in béchamel sauce, and bake at 350F until the sauce is golden. Serve alongside your lunch or dinner entree.

Varieties

Some varieties grown in Ontario include Orange Fantasia (vivid golden orange stalks and veins against dark green leaves; Fordhook Giant (an heirloom variety noted for its dark green deeply crinkled leaves and thick white stems); Lucullus (another heirloom variety with light green deeply crinkled leaves); and Silverado (broad white stems that support heavily crinkled, glossy dark green flavourful leaves).