Chard is a vegetable native to the Mediterranean Sea part of the world and a member of the same family as beetroot. It is extremely nutritious, being high in vitamins A and C as well as a number of other essential nutrients. It is the leaves of the plant which are eaten and although they are always green, the stalk can vary in color with different varieties.
When the leaves are young and fresh, the stalk will be cooked tender but it can be tough and can be cut out and discarded when cooking older and more mature chard leaves. Similarly, the young leaves can be eaten raw in salads but the older leaves should always be cooked. Chard should be cooked and eaten as fresh as possible as it does not store well.
Chard leaves and stems should be cooked separately, as they require different cooking times. This should be the case even when they are to be served in the same dish. To Saute chard, cut the leaves from the stems and roughly chop the stems. Add to a pan with some melted butter and a minced clove of garlic. Cook for a few minutes until just tender before adding the roughly chopped leaves for a further two to three minutes’ cooking time. Serve as an excellent accompaniment to steak or any other form of beef recipe.
Steamed chard leaves
Cut the leaves from the stems and lay in a steamer with a sprig of fresh rosemary and one of fresh thyme. Steam for three to four minutes or until tender. Discard the rosemary and thyme. These steamed leaves make an excellent bed for a fillet of oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, or sardines.
Spanish omelet with chard
Peel a large potato, chop in to one inch cubes and boil in salted water until just softened. Peel and thickly slice a medium white onion and roughly chop four large chard leaves. Add the potato, chard and onion to a large frying pan containing two tablespoons of heated olive oil. Fry for two or three minutes before pouring in six large eggs, beaten and seasoned with salt and pepper. Cook over a medium heat until you can see that the egg is almost set. Slide on to a plate and very carefully invert back in to the pan to complete cooking. Serve cut in to wedges like a pizza, hot or cold, with a simple salad.
Stir-fried chard with beef
Stir fry some strips of beef in groundnut oil until done and remove to a plate. Add roughly chopped chard stems to the oil and stir fry for a minute before adding some roughly chopped onion, red bell pepper, green bell pepper and the thickly sliced chard leaves. Stir fry for two more minutes, re-add the beef to heat through and season with salt and pepper. Serve on boiled or fried rice.
As you grow more familiar with chard and accustomed to its taste you will be able to develop your own cooking methods and recipes. This will not only improve your culinary repertoire, it will allow this extremely nutritious vegetable to be included more frequently in your family’s diet.