Swiss chard works hard for recognition on the American dinner table. Cooks are often reluctant to tackle its huge green leaves and strong spine. But chard deserves a second look, since each leaf is a wonder of nutrition.
When compared with the nutrient density of 47 fruits and vegetables, chard is ranked as the third most nutrient-dense. Containing important vitamins and minerals, one cup of cooked chard contains an amazing 214% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin A and 53% of vitamin C, both important nutrients for a healthy immune system. Chard is also an excellent source of iron, which supports immune function and energy production. It also has manganese – a potent antioxidant – and vitamin K and fiber, and it’s rich in lutein, a carotenoid that acts as an antioxidant to minimize cellular damage from free radicals.
Chard is a member of the same plant family as beets and spinach, and actually tastes a lot like spinach when cooked, and it can be used in a variety of ways and in many recipes. It’s at the peak of its growing season in the fall.
Chard comes in several varieties, with stems that range from ivory white, through yellow, to ruby red. Buy chard with deep green, crisp, springy-looking leaves. The stems should be brightly colored and free of bruising. Chard will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week if stored in a paper bag and minimal moisture.
When cooking soft leafy greens such as chard, we recommend a quick sauté for a minute until they wilt slightly, in order to keep vitamin and mineral values high. Chard stems, which are hearty, need more time to cook, so always cook them separately from the more delicate leaves.