The Vegetable Butcher Explains Why Swiss Chard Is the Sweetest and Sexiest of the Greens

published Jun 18, 2015
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(Image credit: Rachel Joy Barehl)

Look, I love kale, don’t get me wrong. (I have the T-shirt.) I just think when it comes to cooking, Swiss chard is absolutely tops. It hails from the beet family and offers a more delicate and sweet flavor compared to other sturdy greens, making it an easy addition to endless dishes — soups, pastas, pizzas, stews, gratins, egg dishes, stuffed vegetables, and a simple sauté. Swiss chard is beautiful, easy to work with, and it cooks up in no time.

It also comes with tender stems that you can eat with the leaves or on their own. There is no waste here (just beautiful and delicious sweet, sweet greens) — another reason to express my love for Swiss chard.

(Image credit: Rachel Joy Barehl)

6 Reasons I Love Swiss Chard

1. Color

You can’t help but notice — Swiss chard is attractive. Its ribs and veins come in a rainbow of colors (red, pink, yellow, orange, and white) that make breaking down and prepping Swiss chard a joy in itself.

2. Cooks Quickly

Swiss chard has hardy leaves, but they are not as thick as other greens, like collards. Sure you can braise Swiss chard, but they really only need a quick sauté or a steam. They will cook down in no time.

3. Sweetness

Cooked Swiss chard has a wonderful earthy, sweet taste that I find quite versatile (and addictive). These greens are a crowd-pleaser!

4. Raw

Baby Swiss chard leaves are the best, a beautiful addition to salads. You can also cut more mature chard leaves into very fine ribbons; massage the dressing into the leaves with your hands to help tenderize them.

5. Whole Leaf

Swiss chard’s sturdy leaves and delicate stems mean you can blanch the whole leaf and use it as a wrap. Try bundling a Mediterranean-style rice, and baking it with cheese on top. Use younger Swiss chard as a fresh lettuce wrap for whatever filling you desire.

6. Two Vegetables in One

Unlike most sturdy greens, Swiss chard comes with tender stems that are a real pleasure to eat. You can add them to any Swiss chard dish, and they cook quickly, although a little longer than the leaves. (Just cook stems a few minutes before you add leaves — they need about the same time as an onion.)

You can also sauté chopped stems on their own with garlic, olive oil, and a squeeze of lemon or a splash of vinegar. Top these stems with a sprinkle of cheese or toss them into a grain salad. Try dredging stems in breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese, then pan-fry them like breaded zucchini sticks.

You might also try deep-frying them — dip them in batter and drop them in oil until golden and tender; serve with lemon or herb aioli. Pickled chard stems are delicious, too. Serve them alongside a cheese plate and bowl of nuts.

Good Pairings for Swiss Chard

Swiss chard goes with everything, but the following are some go-to partners: almonds, balsamic vinegar, basil, beets, black rice, butter, coconut milk, corn, currants, eggs, fennel seed, feta, garlic, goat cheese, leeks, lemon, lime, marjoram, mushrooms, nutmeg, olives, olive oil, onions, Parmesan cheese, parsley, pasta, pine nuts, polenta, quinoa, red pepper flakes, ricotta, rosemary, scallions, shallots, sweet potatoes, thyme, walnuts, wine vinegars, and zucchini.

(Image credit: Rachel Joy Barehl)