Chard: Also known as beet leaf, chard is a leafy vegetable popular in Mediterranean cooking. Belonging to the Chenopod family along with the likes of beetroot, spinach and quinoa, chard is highly regarded in the health foods market as an excellent source of vitamin K, A, C and E as well as being iron and fibre-rich.
White-stemmed chard has the most palatable, refined flavour with thick succulent stems perfect for cooking. The more vibrantly coloured swiss and rainbow chard carry a more bitter flavour, although this softens through cooking making it a great addition to soups, stews and salads.
As a relatively hardy veg, chard has a lengthy and prosperous season running from the height of summer in July through to the beginning of winter in early November.
Seasonal period: July to November
Flavour friends: Due to its bold, slightly bitter flavour, chard requires flavour friends that are distinct themselves; garlic is a great flavour enhancer along with aromatic spices. Chard handles salty ingredients well too, making cured meats and hard cheeses a great combination. The addition of acidity from lemon in particular is perfect for raw chard making a bold statement in salads and side dishes. Its earthy tendencies are also enhanced by combing with mushrooms and toasted nuts.
Buying, storing and preparing: Choose freshly-picked, vibrant looking leaves that have few blemishes and are not wilting. Stalks should be firm and bright in colour. Keep in the fridge for a couple of days and only prepare when ready to cook. Simply wash thoroughly to remove any grit, then trim the leaves from the stalks as they take less time to cook.
Cooking: The stems of chard can be boiled, steamed, fried or even roasted, but to keep its vibrancy and nutrients intact, quick cooking is the key. Trim off the leaves and if the stems are thick slice into smaller batons. Leaves can be sautéed down similarly to spinach.
Boil: 1 -2 minutes Steamed: 2 – 3 minutes Fried: 3 – 4 minutes Roasted: 8 – 10 minutes
Swiss Chard Casserole with Shiitake Mushrooms
Spicy Rainbow Chard with Bacon and Polenta
Chard with Lentils, Spiced Lemon, Turmeric Butter and Egg
Warm Rainbow Chard and Mixed Grain Salad
Chard and Chipotle Tacos