Chard (Beta vulgaris var. cicla)

Chard (Beta cicla), also known by the common names Swiss chard, silverbeet, perpetual spinach, spinach beet, crab beet, bright lights (due to the bright and vivid spring colors when they are cooked or provided as a medley of vegetables), seakale beet, and mangold, is a leafy vegetable, and is one of the cultivated descendants of the sea beet, Beta vulgaris subsp. maritima. Although the leaves are eaten, it is in the same group and sub-family as beetroot (garden beet), which is usually grown primarily for its edible roots.

The word Swiss was used to distinguish chard from French spinach varieties by 19th century seed catalog publishers. The chard is very popular among Mediterranean cooks. The first varieties have been traced back to Sicily.

Chard can be harvested while the leaves are young and tender, or after maturity, when they are larger and have slightly tougher stems. Raw chard is extremely perishable.

Chard has shiny green ribbed leaves, with stems that range from white to yellow to red, depending on the cultivar. It has a slightly bitter taste. Fresh young chard can be used raw in salads. Mature chard leaves and stalks are typically cooked (like in pizzoccheri) or sauteed; their bitterness fades with cooking, leaving a refined flavor which is more delicate than that of cooked spinach.

Cultivars of chard include green forms, such as ‘Lucullus’ and ‘Fordhook Giant’, as well as red-ribbed forms such as ‘Ruby Chard’, ‘Rainbow Chard’, and ‘Rhubarb Chard’. The red-ribbed forms are very attractive in the garden, but as a rough general rule, the older green forms will tend to out-produce the colorful hybrids.

Chard and the other beets are chenopods, a group which is either its own family Chenopodiaceae or a subfamily within the Amaranthaceae.

All parts of the chard plant contain oxalic acid.

Swiss chard is high in vitamins A, K and C, with a 175 g serving containing 214%, 716%, and 53%, respectively, of the recommended daily value. It is also rich in minerals, dietary fiber and protein

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