It’s not a word most kids or even a lot of adults, know. Mostly you’ll hear people say, “ew, chard.” And when you ask if they’ve ever tried it they’ll say “No. But, ew.”
Apparently whoever invented the word chard was bad at naming things.
Not even adding “Swiss” to the front of it made it better (unlike Swiss Chocolate).
To little, too late.
Because ‘chard’ does sound like a super unappetizing food. It sounds like it’s something that’ll be slimy or tough and definitely not something delicious.
My friends, you couldn’t be more wrong!
Chard is delicious! I was in the “I’ve never had it, but ew, no” category of humanity until three years ago. That’s right, I hated chard for no good reason other than it sounded gross and the few times I’d seen chard prepared it looked like a larger version of slimy wilted spinach. I’ll talk about spinach some other time because that deserve it’s own post!
I promise, chard isn’t gross or bitter when prepared (and picked) correctly. I ended up growing chard in my garden in 2019 without ever having actually tried it because I was trying to prove that I wasn’t a picky veggie eater—which I am, I won’t lie to you—and that I could like more vegetables if I grew them.
That rational works for me like….50% of the time.
Fight me on radishes though, I dare you. I hate them so much. Even the ‘it’s not spicy!’ radishes burn my mouth! Bleh!
But chard? Chard made the cut! I grew it, saw how pretty it was, tore of a leaf, and ate it then and there.
MY. MIND. WAS. BLOWN.
It was like an extra rich green tasting lettuce. It wasn’t tough to chew or bitter at all! Now, I was lucky. I didn’t hear that chard could be bitter until later, so I had no preconceived notion that chard had anything bad going for it (except for my whole ‘sounds gross, so nope’ thing).
So here’s the deal about chard.
Historically, chard has been traced back to Sicily, Italy and is an offshoot of the beet that mutated naturally in the wild! And the name ‘chard’ is from the French word ‘carde’ and was called that to differentiate it from the native spinach. Oops!1
Chard has a ‘greeny’ taste because it’s so high in really good for you minerals! Just like spinach is super rich in iron (hence the ‘green’ taste there too), chard is rich in vitamins K, C, A, E, & B6 and minerals like magnesium, manganese, potassium, iron, sodium, and copper. And that’s just to name a few! I found a website (link below) that lists all the amazing minerals and vitamins as well as case studies concerning it potential to prevent cancers, and most specifically colon cancer.
Have I convinced you?
Okay, fine. I have had chard recently that was bitter both from my garden, and in a restaurant. But since I’ve grow it, I can tell you why!
It’s because it’s old.
When you wait too long, chard’s leafy green becomes big (like it could be used as an umbrella big), bit more tough, and gains more minerals that make it more bitter. And honestly, it’s not even that bitter. All you really have to do to eat it raw, is make sure that you pick it when it’s smaller. That’s it. And if you miss your chance for smaller leaves, the big leaves still taste good! You can chop them up to put in a mixed salad (dressing and salad fixings go a long way to mask any bitterness).
Another way to get rid of the ‘bitterness’ if you’re hypersensitive to bitter compounds, is to quickly—and I do mean quickly—sauté it. I have a recipe down below for you that I make regularly with my chard, and I put it in rice I’ve cooked in coconut milk and lime juice. Seriously it’ll blow your mind, it’s so good.
Now, I sauté my chard quickly because I don’t like slimy greens. I can’t stand cooked spinach for this exact reason. Chard, when lightly sautéed, doesn’t become slimy, but does become tender—and very, very small. I think it shrinks something like, 80 percent of its original size, so if your leaves are small enough you don’t even have to tear them up!
You can also make chips out of them (like kale chips) for adul—I mean kids who like crispy things but not green things.
SAUTEED SWISS CHARD & COCONUT LIME-RICE
1 bunch of Swiss Chard
¼ Cup Olive oil
1 lime (or lemon)
Tiny dash of salt
1 Cup Basmati Rice
1 Cup Coconut Milk
½ Cup Water
Juice & Zest of two *limes
Salt to taste
*You can substitute with lemons if it’s wanted/easier
-Make the rice first. To do this, wash and rinse the rice in the bowl until the water in the bowl runs clear.
-In a pot (with a tight fitting lid) add 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil and let it get hot. Then add in the rice and toast it (basically you’ll see it go from translucent-ish to very white looking).
-Pour in the coconut milk, water, lime zest, lime juice, and salt. Give everything a stir to mix it together well.
-Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes
-After 20 minutes turn of the heat but let it sit for 10 minutes, with the lid still on! This will ensure perfect rice. I have made the mistake of opening the lid. Learn from my tragic mistakes!
Time to make the chard! It’s extremely fast to do, so do this during the 10 minute resting period of the rice and dinner will be ready!
-Remove the leaves from the stems
-Chop or tear into VERY large pieces, I’d say, the size of your hand large from palm to finger tips large. You heard me.
-Put the chard into a bowl and drizzle with olive oil, Massage it in to make sure all leaves are covered in oil.
-In a dry hot pan on medium high heat (no need for oil in it!) put a whole handful of chard on it. After 30 seconds it’ll start to shrink down in size. Flip the chard over (i.e. the sauté part of this recipe) frequently from the this point. It will rapidly shrink!
-Transfer the finished chard onto a plate and dash it with the worlds tiniest amount of salt.Why? Because it’s already going to be naturally slightly salty!
-Do this in handful size batches until its done
-After all the chard is finished and lightly salted throw in a squeeze of lime or lemon juice, and toss.
-Now it’s time to plate up! Put the rice on your plate or bowl, add in the chard and swirl it around it there, and enjoy!
It tastes freaking amazing and I would recommend roasted cherry tomatoes to throw into this bowl too (which is what I do). It’ll change your world and your mind about chard! Plus, it’s easy to make and clean up after!
Growing Swiss chard is SUPER duper easy and can be grown spring through fall! It may bolt in the summer, but honestly, it's summer here in Southern California right now and save for one chard plant, all of my chard hasn't bolted--and we've gotten pretty hot (90+degrees) here!
I also have friends who grow it in much cooler climbs and it survived a couple of frosts. When they covered it up it with a mini hoop house it lasted far into the frost season with little difficulty! It's one of those great plants that'll feed you and your family nearly year round!
Chard is very easy to start from seed, and grows leaves super quickly once established (which also doesn't take long). The great thing about this plant is the more you pick from it the more it grows!
I hope this post helps change your mind about chard and pick some up the next time you go to the grocery store. Or better yet, to grow it!
IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS OR COMMENTS (or better yet, recipes!), PLEASE LEAVE THEM IN THE COMMENTS BELOW! I LOVE TALKING WITH YOU GUYS!
Fun Chard Facts: https://www.freshcityfarms.com/blogs/7-facts-you-might-not-know-about-swiss-chard