Chard - The leafy vegetable for spring cooking

Chard was already highly valued by the ancient Greeks and Romans as a food and medicinal plant. At the beginning of the 18th century, however, the spicy leafy vegetable was displaced by the fine spinach and therefore fell into oblivion. Today, chard is experiencing a culinary renaissance and is winning over more and more health-conscious people and gourmets.    

The origin, properties and history of chard

Chard (Beta vulgaris subsp. vulgaris) is a very old cultivated plant, which was already cultivated several thousand years ago in Mesopotamia (Near East). The tasty vegetable quickly spread throughout the Mediterranean region and was very popular there, especially as a medicinal plant among the Romans and Greeks.  

Thus, the leafy vegetable used to be popular for the treatment of pneumonia or bronchitis. The Greeks also used the large chard leaves to dress wounds, while the Romans discovered their laxative effect and used them for digestive problems. Even today, chard has a firm place in folk medicine. However, its areas of application have been expanded, because nowadays it is mainly administered as a miracle cure for nervousness, earaches and mood swings.  

Due to its colorful leaves and stems, chard was also popular as an ornamental plant in ancient times. Chard owes its colorfulness in particular to betalains. These plant substances ensure that the chard stems, depending on the variety, shine in bright yellow, orange, red or purple. There are basically two different types of chard: the so-called cut or leaf chard and the stem chard. Leafy chard is characterized by its broad leaves and narrow stems, while stem chard has more narrow leaves and thick, fleshy stems. Regardless of the variety, the chard stems are definitely eaten with it. They have a rather mild, vegetable flavor. The leaves, on the other hand, have a taste reminiscent of a spicier and more aromatic form of spinach.   

The ingredients of chard

Chard is one of the healthiest vegetables in the world. The leafy vegetable contains numerous healthy vitamins, minerals and trace elements. Thus, even with relatively small amounts of chard, the average daily requirement of vitamin A, C, and K can be almost completely covered. In addition, chard has an above-average mineral content. For example, 100 grams of chard contain a total of 2.7 milligrams of iron. In comparison, meat contains only 1 to a maximum of 2.5 milligrams of iron. An overview of the most important ingredients of chard can be found here.  

In 100 grams of chard are:  

  • 90mg sodium  
  • 375mg potassium 
  • 100mg calcium  
  • 80mg magnesium 
  • 2,7 mg iron 
  • 40mg vitamin C  
  • 588 µg vitamin A 
  • 400 µg vitamin K  


The effect of chard on our body

Chard is considered a natural fitter thanks to its high content of vital substances. The vitamin C in chard strengthens the body's defenses and thus improves our immune system. The minerals magnesium, calcium and sodium, on the other hand, ensure that we can concentrate better and are no longer so nervous. This is especially beneficial in exam situations.  

Apart from that, chard is a good supplier of vitamin K and iron. While the vitamin K supports bone formation and promotes blood clotting, the iron is responsible for oxygen transport in the blood and therefore always provides our cells with energy. Furthermore, the contained vitamin A supports not only our nervous system, but also the fat digestion and provides still for a beautiful skin and better eyesight.  

Chard in the kitchen

In the kitchen, chard can be prepared in many ways. Depending on your preference, it can be cooked, steamed, boiled or blanched.  

However, since the chard is very heavily contaminated with pesticides, it must be washed thoroughly beforehand. To do this, simply cut off about a centimeter from the end of the stem and then rinse the vegetable well under running water. After that, the chard can be prepared as desired. 

Leafy chard can be used in a similar way to spinach and therefore goes well as a side dish with fish and meat dishes. After washing, you can cut the vegetables into small pieces and process them directly.  

With chard, however, it looks quite different: The stems take almost twice as long as the leaves. That's why they should be processed first after washing. If the stems are very fibrous, you should peel them first with a peeler. After the stems have already been boiled, cooked, bared, etc. for a few minutes in the pot or pan, you can add the leaves as well.  

Basically, the chard is well suited for sauces, risottos, or soups. But also in vegetable curry or puff pastry strudel the chard does well. Larger chard leaves can also be used for roulades instead of cabbage leaves. As with any vegetable, chard loses many important ingredients when cooked. Therefore, you can simply do without cooking and serve a delicious salad instead.

Purchase and storage of chard

Chard from conventional cultivation is very heavily contaminated with pesticides. That's why experts recommend buying organic chard, which is on average 50 percent less likely to be affected by pesticides. You should also make sure that the leaves have bright colors and no brown spots. The stems should also look crisp, fresh and juicy.  

Chard is not a storage vegetable and should therefore be processed as soon as possible after purchase. However, you can store it in the vegetable compartment of your refrigerator for up to three days. You can simply wrap it in a damp cloth. If you want to enjoy chard all year round, you can easily freeze it. The best way to do this is to blanch it in boiling water for 1 to 2 minutes before freezing it in portions. To do this, simply rinse the leafy vegetables thoroughly under running water, cut them into pieces and drain them well after blanching.  

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