Wednesday, October 26, 2011

How to Prepare Swiss Chard

Cheap Eat Challenge, Part 2: Watch as our family of 6 eats on less than $10/day.

Q: What's the prettiest green I know?
A: Swiss chard.

Especially the rainbow chard with it's orange, yellow, red and green, stalks, but they're all lovely. Our CSA had a little window box full of chard and when I saw it I decided it was a must try for me next year.

Q: What's the hardiest green I know?
A: Swiss chard.

You can grow it in any old dumpy spot in your garden. Clay-like soil, rocky soil, not really enough sun--sure why not. (I grew mine in a particularly lousy spot--clay-y soil, lots of run off, rocks on top of the clay-y soil, 2-3 hours of sun--this year and it did fine, not amazing, but fine.) Furthermore, it will grow all spring, summer, and fall, and doesn't have issues with bugs. Spinach and lettuces bolt come warmer weather and kale has trouble with cabbage loopers. Also, you can grow chard from seed easy peasy.

Q: What's one of the healthiest greens I know?
A: Swiss chard.

Have a look here for the skinny on chard. It's super packed (as in supery super packed) with antioxidants, as well as vitamins K, A, and C.

Q: What's my least favorite green to eat?
A: Swiss chard.

Sigh. It tends to run a bit bitter sometimes and has a more distinct flavor than other greens. Thus it doesn't hide as well in a casserole or omelet as it's green leafy brothers. But that hardly makes it unusable. Here are a few links to good recipes I've tried with chard, as well as a few pointers if you have a thing for pretty healthy vegetables, even if they require more prep than just being thrown in a salad. So next time you see a packet of seeds or a bunch of it at the farmer's market, go ahead, give it a whirl.

How to eat it raw:

It's good in a smoothie. I can't cram as much in as I do with spinach and kale because it doesn't hide as well, but you can certainly throw in a few leaves to good effect. Which is nice because it's good to mix your greens up and eat a variety (some green fiends say it's important to rotate or eat a variety because of the alkaloids that greens contain, but most of us never eat enough greens to have any alkaloid effect anyway).

I've also heard you can use very young leaves in salads, but haven't tried it.

How to sautee:

Cut the thick stems off the plants. Saute them first for 2-3 minutes. Then chop up the leaves and throw them in and saute another 2-3 minutes or until they are soundly wilted. Also, because they do tend to have a stronger flavor than other greens, you might want to use stronger flavorings in your saute--things like soy sauce and garlic, instead of just some butter with salt.

And of course you could boil them:

I don't, but you can. If you do, they might be good mixed in with mashed potatoes a la colcannon, only with chard instead of kale. It'd probably also be good with cream or lemon, salt, and pepper, or--again--heavier flavors.

A few good recipes:

New York Times Swiss Chard with Red Peppers. I made this this week (it's the one pictured above) and had it with brown rice. It was pretty good and packed with lots of healthy in-season-right-now-vegetables. P.S. I ate it by myself for lunch since wild horses, starvation, or Hitler could not have induced my family to try it. P.P.S. When Kip walked into the kitchen--before he saw what was in my pan--he said, "Wow, something smells good."

This savory tart from Smitten Kitchen. Kip did eat this one and liked it well enough, although he prefers spinach tart/pie, so that's what we usually stick to. As an additional note, Deb at Smitten Kitchen really loves chard, so she has a whole boodle or recipes involving it. Let me know if you try one and love it.

And speaking of letting me know, I've changed the settings on my comments section to make it easier to comment. So get commenting already. And eat swiss chard. And be happy.


  1. I love chard in fritatta!

  2. I was all set to try Swiss chard, but I think you just talked me out of it...

  3. I have a husband who really does not enjoy chard either, however he really loves creamed spinach. Chard can cream in your reg creamed spinach recipe without many complaints or do a somewhat cheaters version. Sauté chard as you described above, throw in garlic, salt, pepper and then a spoonful of cottage cheese at the end. I myself really dislike cottage cheese. But when you cook/melt it into nicely seasoned sautéed chard it just mellows all nicely.

  4. Oooh, those sound like perfect ways to use the bit of chard I still have persevering in the garden.

    And, Brooke, don't be talked out of it. (I did wonder if I was going to do that to anyone...) Let me say that I really really love kale and spinach, so it's difficult for chard to compete with my love for those two other greens. Also, some people (like Deb from Smitten Kitchen) love chard way more than, say, kale, so you should give it a try at least to be sure which camp you're in. And it's so pretty. And it grows wherever. Think of the armageddic possibilities:).



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