Rainbow chard sautéed with a hint of Asian flavours is incredibly tasty – and as nutritionally beneficial as any more common greens like spinach or kale.
Chard, with its vibrant colours, hearty texture, and rich nutritional profile, is an unsung hero in the realm of leafy greens. From its origins in the Mediterranean to its widespread cultivation, chard has found a place in the hearts and on the plates of people worldwide, including the United Kingdom. With various varieties and a multitude of preparation methods, chard offers an abundance of culinary possibilities. So, whether you're sautéing, steaming, or enjoying it raw, embrace the versatility of chard and savour the numerous health benefits it brings to your table.
A leafy green delight
When it comes to leafy greens, there's a whole world of choices beyond the ever-popular spinach and kale. One such vibrant and versatile green is chard.
Whether you're a seasoned food enthusiast or simply looking to expand your culinary horizons, chard is a delightful addition to any dish.
Let’s explore what chard is, how and where it is grown, the different varieties available, the distinction between chard and spinach, its numerous nutritional benefits, and various methods of preparing chard.
Chard, scientifically known as Beta vulgaris subsp. cicla, belongs to the same family as beets and spinach. Its large, floppy leaves, ranging in colour from dark green to vibrant red, are the edible part of the plant.
Also referred to as Swiss chard, this leafy green is native to the Mediterranean region and has been cultivated for centuries.
Today, it can be found in various parts of the world, including the United Kingdom, where it thrives in temperate climates.
Chard comes in different varieties, each offering a unique combination of flavours, textures, and colours. The most common types are:
- Bright Lights, aka rainbow chard: this variety features a stunning array of colourful stems, including yellow, orange, red, and pink. It not only adds visual appeal to dishes but also offers a mild and slightly sweet taste.
- Fordhook Giant: with its large, dark green leaves and wide white stems, Fordhook Giant is the classic Swiss chard variety. It has a robust, earthy flavour that pairs well with a wide range of ingredients.
Chard vs. spinach
While both chard and spinach fall into the same leafy greens category, there are notable differences between the two.
Chard has broader leaves and thicker stems compared to spinach, making it heartier and more robust in flavour.
Spinach tends to have a milder taste and delicate texture. However, both greens are rich in essential nutrients, offering their unique health benefits.
Chard is a nutrient-dense vegetable that can significantly contribute to a balanced diet. It is an excellent source of vitamins A, C, and K, as well as minerals like magnesium, potassium, and iron. These vitamins and minerals are essential for maintaining healthy vision, supporting the immune system and promoting strong bones.
Chard is also low in calories and high in dietary fibre, making it a valuable addition to weight-conscious diets.
Exploring chard's culinary potential
There are many ways to enjoy this versatile green:
- Raw: young chard leaves can be enjoyed raw in salads, adding a refreshing and slightly bitter taste to your greens mix.
- Steamed: steaming chard leaves retains their nutritional value while imparting a tender texture. It serves as a delicious side dish when seasoned with a squeeze of lemon juice or a drizzle of olive oil.
- Stuffed: chard leaves can be used as a wrap for various fillings, creating a nutritious alternative to traditional wraps or rolls.
- Stir-fried: chard's sturdy leaves make it an excellent choice for stir-frying. Combine it with other vegetables, protein and your favourite seasonings for a quick and healthy meal.
Sautéing is a popular method for preparing chard, as it brings out the natural flavours while maintaining its vibrant colour and slight crunch. That’s my favourite chard recipe, and full instructions follow below.
The aromatic additions, ginger, chilli and garlic wonderfully enhance chard’s earthy, green flavour and the dish can be served as a side with fish, steak or grains.
More greens recipes
How to cook spinach? Simply, with lots of butter and thinly sliced garlic. Buttered spinach is a perfect side dish, healthy and ready in minutes.
Kale crisps baked in the oven in two flavours: garlic and chilli, and Middle Eastern coriander-cinnamon. Best for when you need a zero calorie snack.
Tian de courgette, courgette and spinach gratin, courgette bake - however you call it, it's a great vegetarian recipe. Zucchini and spinach are a well matched couple, appearing in risottos, pasta and frittatas.