Chard’s on the table

Change up your green routine with some nutritional and in-season Swiss chard.

By Bailey Gilliam

Swiss chard is a leafy green from the beet family and is most known for its bright, colorful stems and crinkly green leaves. It not only looks good but also provides amazing nutritional benefits and can easily be added to salads, pasta, pizzas, quiches, sandwiches, smoothies and more. It has a much milder taste than many other greens like bitter spinach or kale but has the same benefits. In addition to being a delicious garden vegetable, it makes beautiful decorations with its colorful stems. Add them to a vase or bouquet for a colorful, fresh look in your home. Surprisingly, Swiss chard does not come from Switzerland but rather originated in the Mediterranean. The myth is that a Swiss botanist was responsible for naming the plant, and the name “Swiss” stuck around. Keep reading to learn about how and why you should incorporate this leafy green into your cuisine routine this month.

Nutritional benefits

Swiss chard is a highly nutritious vegetable. Just one cup provides over three times the recommended daily allowance of vitamin K and 44 percent of the recommended amount of vitamin A. Vitamin K prevents osteoporosis and improves overall bone health, while vitamin A supports vision, growth, cell division, reproduction and immunity. Like other leafy greens, Swiss chard contains high levels of nitrates, which have been known to lower blood pressure, reduce the amount of oxygen needed during exercise and enhance athletic performance. Additionally, this vegetable can help to combat cancer, reduce blood pressure and enhance performance in sports. Swiss chard decreases the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and overall mortality. On a lighter note, consuming Swiss chard promotes a healthy complexion, increased energy and overall lower weight.

How to grow them

When picking a spot to plant your Swiss chard, know that it will tolerate partial sunlight but grows the best in full sun. The soil needs to be well-draining and rich. Any garden around here will have well-drained soil, but to ensure richness, add a balanced fertilizer to your planting site. After choosing your seeds, speed up germination by soaking them in water for 24 hours before planting. Seeds will come in clusters; multiple seedlings emerge from one hole. Sow seeds 1/2- to 1-inch deep in the soil, spacing them 2-6 inches apart in rows. Rows should be at least 18 inches apart. You also can plant them indoors, near a sunny window, in a container with drainage holes. Harvest time occurs when the plants are 6-8 inches tall. Fortunately, you can cut the outer leaves, leaving 1 1/2 inches of the plant, and it will produce continually.

Seven wonders

There are seven different varieties of Swiss chard. Bright Lights has dark green leaves and a multicolored stem. It is bolt resistant but less tolerant to frost. Fordhook Giant is a compact plant with dark green leaves and white stems. Lucullus has green leaves, white stems and is heat tolerant. Peppermint is not minty in flavor like the name suggests but has pink and white striped stems and green leaves. It is bolt resistant and perfect for growing in containers. Rainbow is just as the name suggests, full of striped leaves and stems with red, pink, white, yellow and orange. Rhubarb has dark green leaves and deep red stems. It’s important to sow these seeds after frost has passed or they may bolt. The Ruby Red variety has green leaves and bright red stems and has the same planting instructions as the rhubarb variety.

Where to buy them

• Farmers Market of Bluffton: Purchase locally grown Swiss chard from noon to 5 p.m. on Thursdays in Old Town Bluffton. Larry Tuten of Tuten Farms will have the freshest rainbow Swiss chard this month.

• Most local supermarkets: Our favorite spots for winter produce are Publix, Whole Foods, Kroger and Harris Teeter – in that order.

Fun facts

• Swiss chard also moonlights under the names leaf beet, seakale beet, silverbeet and spinach beet.

• When choosing Swiss chard, look for stems that are firm and brightly colored and leaves that are glossy and smooth without any brown or yellow spots. It comes in a variety of colors including pink, yellow, orange, red and white.

• After purchasing your variety of choice, rinse, wrap the stems in damp paper towels and store in the refrigerator in ventilated plastic bags.

How to use them 

Swiss chard is an extremely versatile vegetable. It can be eaten raw or cooked in pretty much any way imaginable. The leaves can be used just like spinach. Use it in pasta dishes, add it to a soup or sauté it with olive oil. The stem can be used as a substitute for broccoli or asparagus. Add stems to brighten up dishes like frittatas, omelets or stir-fry. LL

Swiss chard frittata 


4 large eggs

4 large egg whites

1/4 cup grated Swiss cheese

1/2 bunch or 6 1/2 cups Swiss chard, washed

1 large white onion, sliced thin

2 tablespoons butter

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions [1] Heat the oven to 400 degrees. [2] In a medium bowl, combine eggs, egg whites, cheese and a pinch of salt and pepper. Set aside. [3] Separate the stems from the leaves of the chard. Dice the stem into small pieces. Roll up the leaves and slice them into thin ribbons, about 1/8-inch thick. [4] Heat a 10-inch skillet on low heat. Melt half of the butter and add the onions with a pinch of salt and pepper. Slowly cook, stirring the onions occasionally until they become translucent, about 8-10 minutes. Bring up the heat to medium and cook until the onions caramelize. Set the onions aside. [5] Increase the heat to medium-high, add remaining butter and add the chard stems. Cook for about 3-4 minutes. Add the chard leaves to the pan and cook until wilted, about 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. [6] Reduce heat to low; pour egg mixture into the skillet, add caramelized onions, salt and pepper and mix well to blend. Reduce heat to low and cook until the edges set, about 6-8 minutes. [7] Once the bottom and edges are set, place in the oven and bake until completely set through, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from the oven and place a dish over the pan; flip onto the plate. Cut into wedges and serve.

Tropical Swiss chard smoothie


2-3 cups chard leaves, loosely packed

1 frozen banana

1 cup frozen mango, more for a sweeter smoothie

3 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut

1 cup of milk

Water, as needed

Directions [1] Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust ingredients as needed. Possible additions: Plain or vanilla Greek yogurt, pineapple, lemon or lime juice.

Garlicky Swiss chard


2 bunches Swiss chard, stems removed

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

Freshly grated parmesan cheese

Directions [1] Stack chard leaves on top of one another and slice them into 1/4-inch strips. [2] Heat oil in a very large skillet or a soup pot. Add garlic and pepper and sauté for 30 seconds, until garlic is fragrant. [3] Stir in the chard, coating it in oil. Cover the pan and let cook for about 2 minutes, until the chard is wilted. Uncover, stir and cook for 2 minutes longer. [4] Season with salt. Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top.

Similar Posts