Swiss chard, also known as Rainbow Chard and Silverbeet and botanically known as Betula vulgaris subsp vulgaris, is a leafy green originally found in the Mediterranean saline soils of Greece and Italy. The plant’s “Swiss” lineage is a complicated misnomer due to nineteenth century botanists and gardeners confusing the crop with other plants, such as beets and cardoons.
PURCHASE & STORAGE
When purchasing Swiss chard at the market, look for full bunches with turgid leaves. The color of the stems does not make a big difference in flavor, but note that darker stems may add a dark red color to your dish just like beet leaves. To store Swiss chard for maximum freshness and longevity, store it in an airtight container or plastic bag in your refrigerator’s crisper drawer set at high humidity. If the leaves start to wilt, simply give the stems a fresh cut and soak them in cold water for an hour or two (just like fresh cut flowers).
Swiss chard is available at the market year-round thanks to greenhouses and shade cloth, but it is at its peak in early summer and fall.
Swiss chard’s brightly colored stems and luscious leaves taste like a sweeter version of beet greens, and they are typically sautéed or blanched before eating. It is best to de-stem the leaves and cook chopped stems separate—or save the stems for a relish tray and eat them like celery stalks.
According to the University of California Berkeley, “Swiss chard is a rich source of beta carotene and potassium and also supplies fiber, vitamin C, and magnesium. The plant is also a superb low-fat source of vitamin E, which is usually found in high-fat foods.”