One of the easiest vegetables
to grow, it will keep growing right through the winter, Swiss
chard is a good source of beta carotene and dietary fibre. Also
known as chard, these greens come from a variety of beet grown
for its stems and leaves, not its root. The dark green leaves
have a a full bodied texture similar to spinach (for which chard
is a good substitute). The fleshy stalks and ribs are either white
or, in red chard, a jewel like red. Unlike many greens, the stalks
of Swiss chard are completely edible. Unless the chard is young,
though, the stalks should be separated from the leaves and given
a little extra cooking time.
Swiss chard should be displayed in a chilled display to preserve
its crispness and sweetness. Look for a fresh green colour, the
leaves should not be yellowed or browned, and purchase only moist,
crisp, unwilted greens, unblemished by tiny holes, which indicate
insect damage. Be sure that the stems are juicy and crisp.
Wrap unwashed Swiss chard in damp paper towels, then place in
a plastic bag; store in the refrigerator for three to five days.
Wash chard leaves and stems before using, as they are likely to
have sand or dirt clinging to them. Separate the leaves from the
stems and swirl the leaves around in a large bowl of cool water.
Lift out, letting the sand and grit settle; repeat if necessary.
Slice or chop as your recipe directs.
Whenever possible, use the cooking liquid from
chard in a gravy or add it to a soup; a significant percentage
of the nutrient content of greens is released into the liquid
as they cook. Don't heat Swiss chard in an aluminum pan; the chard
contains oxalates and it will cause the pan to discolour. Start
cooking the stems a few minutes before adding the leaves. Quick
cooking will help to preserve the colour as well as the nutrients.