Grower = Victoria
But unlike traditional beets — which put their energy into producing finger-staining roots, chard instead produces big, tender leaves and crunchy stalks.
Chard has been around for thousands of years and likely originated in the Mediterranean, where it was in heavy culinary rotation until spinach came along.
The taste depends on which part you eat, though not so much on which color. The large, firm leaves are mild, sweet, earthy and just slightly bitter; on the whole, it’s a bit milder than spinach.
The stalks — which can be white, yellow, red, purple, pink, striped and so on — resemble flat celery with a sweet taste slightly reminiscent of beets.
Why is it sometimes called Swiss chard? No one knows, but we do know it has nothing to do with Switzerland.
When shopping for chard, look for bright, firm leaves and stalks. Wrapped in plastic and refrigerated, it will keep for two to four days.
How do you use it? The simple explanation is to use the leaves as you would spinach, and use the stalks as you would asparagus.
But I tend to think that oversimplifies things. It also requires that you treat chard as two separate vegetables, the greens and the stalks.
I prefer to roughly chop the leaves and finely chop the thicker stalks; this helps the two parts cook in about the same time. And I enjoy the contrast between the more tender leaves and the crunchier stalks.
Generally, any flavor that works well with spinach will partner with chard, including butter, lemon, cream, garlic, shallots and vinaigrette.
In fact, if you do nothing more than briefly steam or sauté chopped chard, then toss it with any (or any combination) of those, you’ll have a great side dish.