Ingredient of the Week: Chard
Chard is a fairly new vegetable to my repitoire. Its not so readily available in supermarkets, however my Dad has been growing it on his allotment this year, so I’ve had the opportunity to try it and start cooking with it. This has meant that I have had to search the internet for a lot of inspiration on what to do with it, but fortunately i’ve found plenty of tasty ideas.
Chard has very large, dark green leaves, that look and taste similar to spinach and the leaves of beetroot, which I also learned earlier this year are actually edible. This is not surprising as all three vegetables come from the same family. Although the chard leaves are always green, the stems come in a variety of colours, this is why it is often called rainbow chard. The white stemmed variety is Swiss chard and there are golden, red and purple varieties as well. It is most commonly found in Mediterranean cuisine, in particular Italian and can be added to pastas or risotto. The younger leaves can be eaten raw in a salad and it can even be found as a topping on pizza. Chard can be grown all year round, but its best between the months of July and early November.
Why is it good for me?
As chard is yet another dark, leafy, green vegetable, like kale, it is packed full of many micronutrients that result in health benefits. It contains high levels of several vitamins including K, needed for building healthy bones and heeling wounds, and A, C and E, which are all important antioxidants needed for preventing infection and disease, in particuar cancer. The high levels of vitamin A helps with healthy skin and bone development, while also promoting good eye health. Like carrots, chard contains beta-carotene, which further benefits your eye health.
Chard, like spinach, is an excellent source of iron. Iron is needed to help transport oxygen from the lungs in the blood to the muscles, in order to provide them with much needed energy to work. Without iron we feel lethargic and get tired very easily. Other minerals that chard is a good source of are manganese, magnesium and potassium. Magnesium and potassium combine to help look after your heart by lowering your blood pressure. All the nutrients found in chard combine to bring many health enhancing benefits and so should be included more in your diet if possible. It is only really surpassed for its nutritional content by broccoli and spinach.
How do I prepare it?
Firstly I rinse it thoroughly to remove any dirt, as it has come fresh from the ground. I then check the leaves and remove any that are damaged. The stems and leaves of chard take very different lengths of time to cook, so they need to be separated. To do this I fold the leaves in half along the stem and slice down the length of it. Keeping the leaves and stems separated I then cut both to size.
How do I cook it?
The most common ways to cook chard are to boil, steam or sauté it. It can however also be roasted or grilled, but I’ve not done this yet. The stems take longer to cook, requiring around 5 mins for steaming, 4 for boiling and 2-3 for frying. The leaves need around 3 for steaming, 2 for boiling and frying takes 30 seconds.
If you want to try adding chard in to your diet, then try it in this really tasty bacon, mushroom and chard pasta or in this Moroccan fish with rainbow chard quinoa. Possibly my favourite recipe I’ve made so far using chard is this chard and chickpea in tomato sauce with quinoa, but it could easily be served with pasta or rice instead. If none of these inspire you, then try substituting it for spinach in this bacon and cauliflower pasta or for kale in this mushroom and kale risotto.
I appreciate my range of chard recipes is still limited, but its still very new to me. If you have any recipe suggestions, then I would be grateful to you for sharing them.
Thank you for reading and speak soon.