Season for Chard: June - August
Chard - or Swiss Chard as it's often called - is a cruciferous vegetable related to the beet and spinach chenopod family, which makes sense if you consider the bitter, pungent flavor profile they share. With long stalks resembling celery that come in a range of vibrant colors, often you'll find a bunch showcasing several hues dubbed Rainbow Chard. The crinkly - yet crisp - green leaves combine with their vivid veins to produce one healthy plant for human consumption.
How to Buy and Store Chard
Choose chard with crisp leaves that aren't wilted, firm stalks and no signs of discoloration or any holes. Be sure not to wash your chard until you are about to use it, as it will spoil much quicker after being washed. The more airtight the bag, the longer the chard will keep in your fridge, but you should use it within a few days (5 max). If you know you won't be able to get to it in time, blanching and freezing is an option.
How to Cook Chard
Rinse chard under cold running water, but avoid soaking as you can lose water soluble nutrients. Fresh young chard can be used raw in salads for a lovely crunch, but mature chard leaves and stalks tend to be unpleasantly bitter and need to be softened with cooking. Braise, boil, saute, steam; chard can be handled much in the same way as spinach only it's slightly sweeter, tougher and takes longer to cook. If you're including the stems you might want to cook them separately as they need more time to cook than the leaves, of which you want to avoid overcooking and losing some of their many vitamins and minerals.
Health Benefits of Chard
We think about chard as a vegetable whose phytonutrients combine uniquely to offer special benefits, one of which is for blood sugar control. In particular, the flavonoid syringic acid has recently received special attention for being able to inhibit the activity of an enzyme called alpha-glucosidase, which means your blood sugar stays more steady. Chard's stems in their many splendid colors each contain a different set of phytonutrients carrying a different set of health benefits, so we say, taste the rainbow.
Why Buy Natural and Organic Chard
While chard itself is not on the Environmental Working Group's Dirty Dozen list of the foods with the worst pesticide profiles, some very like-minded veggies are: namely spinach, kale, celery and collard greens. Because chard has no skin that we peel off, it has no protection from the infiltration of harmful pesticides and thus is highly susceptible to retaining loads of unhealthy chemicals. During the summer months, you'll have no problem finding beautiful bunches of organic Swiss Chard at your local farmers market or grocery store. And we suggest you do just that.
image: Little Blue Hen