Kale Thinks It's a Big Deal. Let's Eat Swiss Chard Instead.

Ingredient Intelligence

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When I need to pick up a vegetable for dinner, but I'm not sure what I'm serving it with, I buy a bunch of Swiss chard and skip right over kale. As much as my family has wanted to love kale, we're out of step with the starry-eyed food world. We have never liked it, no matter how hard we try.

Swiss chard, however, is just as nutritious, mild enough in flavor that it plays nicely in a variety of dishes and preparations, and is easy and quick to prepare. It's won a place on our dinner table and should have a spot on yours!

What Is Swiss Chard?

Swiss chard is a leafy green vegetable in the same family as beets and spinach. It originated in the Mediterranean region and not in Switzerland — no matter what its name might imply.

Swiss chard may go by other names like silverbeet, perpetual spinach, spinach beet, crab beet, bright lights, seakale beet, mangold, or even just as spinach in South Africa.

There's a lot of great stuff to know about Swiss chard: it's low in calories but packs a ton of antioxidants and vitamins, making it a healthy choice when cooking.

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Buying and Storing Swiss Chard

Although Swiss chard can generally be grown year round and is sometimes thought of as a winter vegetable, its peak season is in the summer.

When buying Swiss chard, look for vibrant color and unbruised leaves and stems. The leaves should be firm and not wilted. Although chard leaves are always a dark green, the stems can be white, yellow, or bright red. There is no noticeable flavor difference between the colors, although the red stems can bleed a red or pink color into the other foods it's cooked with.

Keep in mind that rainbow chard is not a variety of chard — it's just various colors of chard that are bunched together to be sold.

Swiss chard can be stored in a plastic bag in the humidity drawer of the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Prepping Swiss Chard

After washing the chard, stack it together, trim the ends of the stems, then cut the stems from the leaves. If there are thick ribs in the leaves, cut them out. Stack the leaves and cut crosswise into ribbons or pieces and they're ready to go.

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While the stems are not as widely used as the leaves, they are crunchy and delicious and just as worth of being eaten as their leafy counterparts. Saute them or even pickle them for a satisfying crunch.

Eating Swiss Chard

Swiss chard leaves are tender and have a taste similar to beet greens and spinach. While some may find the leaves slightly bitter, they are less vegetal in flavor than kale. The crunchy stems are slightly sweet and have a similar taste and texture with bok choy stems.

Swiss chard is easy to prepare in many different ways — it cooks quite quickly, making it a great option when you need to throw together dinner. Saute, braise, or even eat it raw! The hearty leaves can hold up well without wilting in salads much in the same way kale does.

Updated from a post originally published in February 2007.

(Image credits: David Kay/Shutterstock; Flickr member jslander licensed under Creative Commons; Anjali Prasertong; Andrea Bemis; Emma Christensen)