Fresh Swiss Chard

Cooking How-To, How-To, In Season, Spring
on March 1, 2008
Mark Boughton

The charm of chard is irresistible. Its mild tasting stems and earthy leaves work in just about any dish, from stir-fries and omelets to gratins and soups. Why, then, are most of us unfamiliar with it?

Also called Swiss chard, this member of the beet family most likely originated centuries ago in the Mediterranean, where cooks are still coming up with interesting ways to use it. If you’d like to incorporate it into your menus, follow these simple rules:

  • Chard can take the place of spinach or any winter green in most recipes. Its red, green and multi-colored varieties are interchangeable in cooking.
  • Use both the stems and leaves.
  • When preparing chard, cut a few leaves at a time instead of the whole bunch. Besides facilitating chopping, it’s easier to see any bruised or damaged parts that should be discarded.
  • To promote even cooking, cut thick stems lengthwise in strips before chopping into smaller pieces. As chard is cut, place it in a large bowl of warm water, swish around and transfer to a pot by lifting it out with your hands.
  • When buying chard, remember cooking shrinks it to a fraction of its bulk. A pound of fresh chard yields about 2 cups cooked . . . and plenty of flavor.

Jean Kressy, a food writer in Ashburnham, Mass.