Ingredient of the Week: Swiss Chard

Categories: The Basics

swiss chard.jpg
What is it?
I'd heard of it, seen it at the grocery store and read about how delicious and healthy it is, but I'd never tried Swiss chard until last week, when I was looking for a leafy green to serve with dinner. It was much less bitter than I expected and also cooked much quicker.

Considered a super-food because it is so nutrient-rich, Swiss chard is second only to spinach in total nutrient concentration. In addition to providing more than 700 percent of your daily value of Vitamin K, more than 100 percent of Vitamin A and more than half the recommended amount of Vitamin C, Swiss chard also contains at least 13 different antioxidants. One of the most prevalent antioxidants found in the leaves is now being studied for its ability to help regulate blood sugar.

There are several varieties of chard - some with white stems (which tend to be more tender and edible when cooked) and hybrids with multi-colored stems, but they're all relatives of the beet.

How is it used?
The younger, more tender chard leaves and stems can be used raw, in salads. Mature leaves should be cooked to reduce bitterness.

One source recommended boiling chard leaves for at least three minutes to reduce the oxalic acid. Oxalic acid is toxic in large quantities and can cause kidney stones when concentrated enough in the body. But don't worry too much about the amount of oxalic acid in chard - a quick blanching of the vegetable is only a precaution, not a necessity.

The vegetable is also widely used throughout the Mediterranean, where it is thought to have originated, despite its label of "Swiss."

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Where can I buy it?
Any grocery store with a good produce section. I found both white-stemmed and red-stemmed varieties at the large H-E-B on Bunker Hill.

Italian-style Swiss Chard: Courtesy of

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Anon today
Anon today

Chard grows really well here, I've found - we have about 6 rainbow chard plants that just keep on giving. Made it through the freezes just fine with a little frost cloth covering. I've been using it a lot, in pretty much any recipe that calls for any type of green. Next up - ravioli or stuffed shells with ricotta and chard.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

Love Swiss chard! It doesn't get the love it deserves. I like to wilt it in a giant saute pan with a little bit of olive oil and crushed red pepper, then serve it alongside salmon or lamb chops. Holy yum.

Doc Ricky
Doc Ricky

Not commenting on the myth of "superfoods", one thing to say is the issue of oxalic acid. Oxalic acid is only an issue to those with a tendency to have kidney stones, or other oxalate crystal excretion problems; the only commonly occurring vegetable with relatively high concentrations of oxalic acid are the LEAVES of rhubarb - which you aren't supposed to eat. Chard is far below that concentration.

Now, as to boiling - it's not the length of time, but the volume of water used in boiling because you're diluting the oxalic acid away - along with any other nutrition you're hoping to get.

By the way, beet greens are also delicious. Chard are essentially beets bred just for the greens.

Doc Ricky
Doc Ricky

I suspect that Swiss chard doesn't get its due is mostly because it is relatively pricey on the supermarket shelf.


Yes to all. Hence the "But don't worry too much about the amount of oxalic acid in chard - a quick blanching of the vegetable is only a precaution, not a necessity," part of the post. Wanted to mention it for readers that might have those types of concerns, but not scare others into a false sense of danger if they chose to prepare their chard in a different way.

Agree about the beet greens totally!

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