Antioxidant Alert! How to Cook Swiss Chard

I grew up with swiss chard as a staple of my summer diet, as my father grew it in our backyard garden every year. I thought it was a totally commonplace vegetable as a kid—it wasn’t until years later (when Laura asked me “what the heck is ‘swiss chard’?") that I really figured out that nobody’s ever heard of it.

If you're unfamiliar with this humble green, you’re missing out! Swiss chard is amazingly healthy, packed with fiber, vitamins, minerals and important antioxidants like lutein. It is delicious, mild in taste and really inexpensive--usually only 99c to $1.49 for an entire pound at the grocery store.

And of course, because of the “no net calories” rule (meaning you burn almost as much energy eating and digesting it as you take in by eating it in the first place), you can eat swiss chard until you’re green in the face and never gain weight.

So today my goal is to give you a few quick instructions on how to cook swiss chard and encourage you to cook it for your family. And in the next few days, I’ll also post a great vegetarian soup recipe that uses either swiss chard or kale, which is another high lutein green.

How to Cook Swiss Chard:
First rinse the leaves well in water. Then cut the last half-inch or so off from the ends of each stem. This is for aesthetic reasons only (you know, the way it looks), as the stems are usually a bit discolored at the very end.

Then, put 2-3 inches of water into the bottom of a 4 or 5 quart sauce pan, and put on the stove on high heat. You can chop up the rinsed leaves and stems while the water comes to a boil. This is a textbook example of using parallel processing to save cooking time.

To chop everything most efficiently, I usually lay the full stack of leaves (with stems still attached) into one big pile on my cutting board and hack them crosswise into strips about one to two inches wide. You should be sure to slice up the stems. They're good too, with the consistency of a celery stalk but a milder taste.

Then I’ll turn the knife 90 degrees and cut the greens once or twice lengthwise. In just a quick minute or two you've reduced an enormous pile of swiss chard into reasonable, bite-size pieces.

Another hint: always prep more swiss chard than you think you need. The greens will cook down quite a bit in the pan.

Then, once the water is boiling well, pack the chopped greens into the pan and cover with a lid. Reduce heat to medium and let the greens steam for 10-11 minutes. Swiss chard is one of the sturdier greens out there, so you’ll want to give it a few more minutes of cooking time than more tender greens like spinach which cook fully in just 4-5 minutes.

Then drain and serve! I encourage you to avoid adding butter or salt, but you can certainly add pressed garlic for an extra kick.

Related Posts:
Attention Vegetarians and Vegans! Fresh Corn and Tomato Soup
Eat Right to See Right: Foods for Better Eye Health
Bad Vision: The Four Worst Diet Habits for Eye Health
Antioxidant Alert! Collard Greens with Rice and Kielbasa

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hey Dan - reading your blog with pleasure as soon as you post (where do you find the time?). Just thought I'd mention that in this part of the world (New Zealand, and Australia for that matter) chard is called silverbeet, and as one of the easiest vegetables in the world to grow, coupled with the unlimited uses for it, has been a staple in our diet forever - if only we could get the kids to eat it! Too green, I guess. Anyway, their loss .....
All the best
Rich and Col

Daniel Koontz said...

Hi Rich and Col! Thanks for the comment--"silverbeet" actually sounds a lot more appetizing than "chard" doesn't it? :)

Thanks for the positive vibes--really glad you're enjoying reading!

DK

Anonymous said...

No pics? Is this a real vegetable, or a hoax? I'm suspicious.

-Tom C

Daniel Koontz said...

Hi Tom C, thanks for your comment. I think.

I guess I've set the bar too high with this blog, my audience is demanding pictures every time now!! ;)

But yes, swiss chard is allegedly a real vegetable (and it's allegedly called silverbeet in New Zealand too).

DK

The Sieve said...

Gadzooks! What a leap from the sinewy spice of CC's Cajun Meatloaf to a simple sup of Swiss Chard sans gras. How about some lard? Some saltpork? Even a little bit of bacon grease and onion? Heck, Even some dried up bacon bits would be a methadone to my meatless madness.

I guess this was an antioxidant post after all....

Happy cooking this Labor Day weekend.

Daniel Koontz said...

Mr. The Sieve!

Mmmmmmm... Lard.

Wait till you read our next post, which shares a story of mindless bacon-eating.... We really can jump to extremes here at Casual Kitchen!

Thanks for your comment,

DK

Katie said...

Thanks for posting this! I just got a bunch from a neighbor and had never heard of the stuff...let alone knew what to DO with it! (I didn't know we could grow anything in Phoenix except oranges...)

I'm going to cook it now!

Daniel Koontz said...

Glad to hear it. Let me know how you like it!

DK

Jeff D said...

I love doing chard as a saute as well, but that adds the extra step of stripping off the leaves from the stems (as the stems need a little extra time to cook)though i will usually add a bit of water to the pan when the greens go in to speed things along.

Daniel Koontz said...

Hi Jeff, thanks for your comment--and yes sauteed chard is good. Also for anyone looking for yet ANOTHER way to prepare swiss chard, I recently featured in one of my links posts a recipe for braised chard in a tomato sauce.

Thanks for reading!

DK

Anonymous said...

Here in Texas some think swiss chard is POLK SALAD. Wrong, It has a wonderful taste when cooked with bacon@salt jowl.

Floyd76259

sandra coleman mme said...

if kids won't eat it you might try therainbow variety - same thing but very colourful with pink, white and yellow stems. the leaves are green, though you could leave these out and have them with something else if you wanted to. you may have to grow it yourself but it is very easy fro seed.

Sandy said...

Thanks for the wonderful write-up and the recipe! My colleague just handed me a bunch from his garden and I was wondering what to do with it! Will try your recipe but will also try to mix it with dough and make 'chard-chapatis' (North Indian flat-bread). (We generally make those with spinach but this seems like an excellent substitute!) Will let you know how it comes out. (Hopefully kids will eat it mixed up in their 'chapatis' too!)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the cooking tips and info. I'm 33 and just got diagnosed with macular degeneration, which also runs in my family. I was told to take vitamins and to cook kale, swiss chard along with a few others but wasn't sure how to prepare it. Could I add these raw to a salad? We just love baby spinich and eat it regularly so I was hoping to add them to my salad. Thanks again!

Daniel said...

Hi Anonymous, thanks for your comment.

Spinach (baby or regular spinach) is probably the best tasting eye-healthy green to eat raw. And you certainly can eat swiss chard, kale, and even collards raw in a salad, although I'd start with small amounts and see how you like them. Raw kale and collards in particular can be an acquired taste.

If you're looking for other recipes that use any and all of these eye-healthy greens, I'd take a look at some of the vegetarian recipes here on this blog (see my recipe index page in the upper right margin). Also there is an entire blog dedicated to kale that you can explore with tons of kale-based recipes. And finally, I'd check out the Moosewood cookbooks (Sundays at Moosewood in particular), which have great vegetarian recipes containing a wide variety of eye-healthy veggies. You can find affiliate links to these books here on my blog in the middle of the right hand margin.

Good luck!

DK

culturelady said...

In our Italian home, we always sauteed olive with huge chunks of garlic (to flavor the olive oil) and add red pepper flakes (optional) and cut off the spines as sauteing doesn't really soften them. I then add spinach and grape size tomatoes to it. I top it with lemon zest in the summer, and then either add (asiago, parmesan, fontina mix cheese) or ricotta salata (the hard cheese) to the top. Sometimes I will add pasta (usually a smaller pasta like orzo or orrechiette or mini penne) with it or tuna depending for a cold summer salad; or in the winter, some italian sausage (turkey or chicken sausage with sage and garlic as delicious as well). The taste is out of this world.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great article on Swiss Chard. I found you by looking for high potassium food sources and how to cook them. Especially this one....I have seen it many times in the grocery store, but it just LOOKED difficult to prepare....

Thanks for taking the mystery out of it.

Green Tea said...

Nice post, thanks for sharing this wonderful and useful information with us.

Green Tea Weight Loss

Anonymous said...

I, too ate Swiss Chard as a kid. My Dad grew it every summer as well as a large variety of other vegetables. When my parents got older, they were not able to keep up a garden anymore, and then of course I moved out. I just today bought some at a local fruit market and cannot wait until I get to eat it tonight, as it was one of my favorite vegetables growing up. Many people don't know about it, nor do they know what they are missing.

livestartled.com said...

I just barely discovered swiss chard, red chard, kale and the like when my husband and I began with a whole foods counselor. So we're "trying something different" as Jamie Oliver says. Coming up soon on my Confessions of a Startled Fat Woman on http://LiveStartled.com is a post on the chard and my adventures in eating startled.

I'll be back!

Anonymous said...

I just sauteed some chard that a friend gave me from her garden. This is my first time eating it, and I must say that it is like eating pure health in each bite. :)

Anonymous said...

"you can eat swiss chard until you’re green in the face and never gain weight" :-D

Sandra said...

I cook it in the pressure cooker for 30 seconds (with a bit of water and bacon grease of course) Yum!

NYLIFE said...

After reading this months Men Journal with the two pages of "Green Giants" I went crazy! I did 5 pints of water, 1.5 pounds of peeled red onions, tablespoon of salt, a touch of olive oil, 4 tablespoons of butter, a little black pepper, 4 chopped leaks, 2 sliced small onions, handful of collard greens, 5 large leafs of Swiss chard sliced up. Let simmer for an hour stiring occasionally. Then a small bushell of watercress for 5 more minutes. I then let it cool for about 40 minutes before putting in the blender and BAM! What a green healthy soup, it's awesome and good for you! (i think).lol. Cheers, Dave. PS. I'm not a regular cook.

NYLIFE said...

That should have been 1.5 pounds of red POTATOES!!lol.

SAFE SPACE!!! said...

thanks, im new to this veggie but i bought the red one; should i cook it the same? i will be following your work, really nice!

Daniel said...

Hi Safe Space: Yes, you can cook red chard in exactly the same way. Enjoy!

DK

Anonymous said...

I'm a kiwi (New Zealander) living in the US and when i first arrived here had a heck of a job trying to find "silver beet". But how delighted I was to stop by a roadside stand and see my fav vege being called by another name: Swiss Chard! It's no joke, it's real, it's healthy and full of goodness. Thank you for spotlighting it.

Anonymous said...

The swiss chard my son bought in Houston was not the same as silver beet or as more commonly known as spinach in AU.
It was red in colour the same as rhubarb which is what he thought it was.
Buying rhubarb in the US is extremely difficult and what he had hoped he had purchased.

Nance in Ann Arbor said...

Hi, Dan, We decided that we should shop and eat local as much as possible as a green action and to support local economy and esp. farmers. Bought Swiss chard last year for the first time. So far I am the stir fry sort using the spine to saute, then realized there was a lot of leafy green that we were just composting. We will be eating more green-thanks to your enlightening article. You've got a great crowd of followers-loved reading the posts!
BTW no need to use a lot of fat for flavor, but spray butter is some good synthetic stuff!
Nance in Ann Arbor

Inchwormart said...

I've grown swiss chard for the first time this year. Tonight I'm going to harvest a few leaves and cook according to your directions. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

My mother uses lemon juice on chard.

Just another idea! :)