The best way to shop? With the seasons! So, every 2 weeks at Kitchen Stories, we’ll be highlighting a different in-season ingredient along with 3 new recipes. To the market, we go!

When you think of leafy green vegetables, which are the first to pop to mind? I’m going to take a wild guess and say big bunches of Tuscan kale, petite rounded leaves of baby spinach, or maybe even crisp bulbs of bok choy? Well, it’s about time to scoot those so-called superfoods aside and make room for a new leafy green: Swiss chard. A versatile veg that’s so much more than a stand-in or substitute for other greens, here’s everything you need to know about (spoiler alert!) not-so-Swiss Swiss chard.

1. Hello, my name is Swiss chard

You’re dying to know, so let’s address this first: Swiss chard does not originate from, nor is it native to, Switzerland. It’s native instead to southern Europe (thought more specifically to come from the east and southern coasts of Spain), it’s sometimes referred to simply as chard, but can take on a slew of other common names like perpetual spinach, beet spinach, silverbeet, leaf beet, or seakale beet—many of which make sense as chard is a close relative of both beetroot and spinach.

Swiss chard leaves are low in calories and nutrient dense. While you can eat young, tender chard leaves raw in salads for the full nutritional benefit, they tend to have a bitter taste and are more often cooked in order to mellow out the bitterness and make them easier to digest. When cooked, they still offer tons of nutritional value in the form of vitamins A, C, E, and K, along with not insignificant amounts of fiber, magnesium, iron, and potassium.

2. When (and how) to buy perfect Swiss chard

Typically in season from July through November, you might not be aware of it now, but there are actually different “types” of Swiss chard you’ll run into at the market—the most gorgeous of them being “rainbow chard” which is not a specific varietal of the vegetable, but a colorful mix of stalks from different varietals. From stalks the color of the sun to thick stalks with no color at all, the most common varietal varies by country and region.

In North America it’s probably “ruby chard,” named as such for its ruby-red stalk and emerald green leaves, but here at Kitchen Stories, we often work with a variety called Barese (coming from southern Italy, near Bari), which has somewhat paler, smoother green leaves and wide white stalks. No matter which varietal you have access to, they’re all chard, and can all be prepared in the exact same way.

When shopping for Swiss chard, look for strong stalks that aren’t soft or wobbly but can hold their leaves high when tipped vertically. They should also have fresh, moist-looking cuts where they were sliced from the plant. The leaves should be dark and subtly glossy with an even coloring throughout—avoid any leaves that are wilting or have yellow, brown, or black spots.

3. How to store Swiss chard

Swiss chard can be stored in the fridge—unwashed and loosely wrapped in plastic or stored unwrapped in the vegetable drawer—for up to 4 days. Wash and dry it only just before using. To squeeze out a few more days, you can also separate the stalks and leaves—wrapping both lightly in paper towels or plastic in the vegetable drawer of your fridge.

If you grow Swiss chard or simply want to stock your freezer with your favorite new green, you can follow this simple process to freeze the chard and keep it for up to 8 months:
1. Wash the Swiss chard very well, then separate the stalks from the leaves. At this point, you can chop them or leave them whole.
2. Blanch the chard stalks and leaves separately in a pot of boiling water, removing them to a bowl of ice water after 2 min. and 1 min. respectively.
3. Drain the chard and pat or squeeze dry. Lay them in a single layer in resealable plastic freezer bags or vacuum packs. Remove as much air as possible, label, and freeze.

4. All the ways to enjoy Swiss chard

With its strong leaves and crisp stalks, the flavor of Swiss chard is sort of like a tamed-down blend of the beetroot’s sweet earthiness and the bitter-leaning, vegetal taste of spinach. To ensure even cooking and make the most of the individual textures and flavors of Swiss chard, it’s best to separate the stalks and leaves.

Chard leaves, like spinach leaves, hold their own when cooked in things like casseroles, gratins, soups, and stews—softening a bit in texture and becoming even milder in flavor. While the leaves can be eaten raw, they—like kale leaves—won’t taste very good unless you treat them to a little massage with oil and, more importantly, an acid like lemon juice. Try swapping them in for kale in this kale salad recipe.

Some recipes (a green smoothie with chard for instance) might make use of just the leaves and leave you wondering how to, or even if you can, use the stalks, but be assured: You can, and should, use those stalks! Chop them up and use them like you would an onion for an extra chard flavor in things like chard quiches or warm, wilted chard salads. You can also whip up a Swiss chard variation on pesto or use blanched chard leaves in lieu of spinach for ravioli or cannelloni fillings.

5. What to make next

All week long, we’ll be featuring new Swiss chard recipes on Kitchen Stories. Check back to see what’s new, then try one for yourself! Here’s where to start:

Swiss chard and Gruyère cheese gratin

Swiss chard and Gruyère cheese gratin

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Scallops and sautéed Swiss chard over polenta

Scallops and sautéed Swiss chard over polenta

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Tarte flambée with Swiss chard, mushrooms, and bacon

Tarte flambée with Swiss chard, mushrooms, and bacon

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5-ingredient Portuguese bread and cilantro soup

5-ingredient Portuguese bread and cilantro soup

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Herby Swiss chard fritters with basil yogurt

Herby Swiss chard fritters with basil yogurt

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Swiss chard and chickpea stew with turmeric and poached eggs

Swiss chard and chickpea stew with turmeric and poached eggs

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Swiss chard, Italian sausage, and white bean pasta

Swiss chard, Italian sausage, and white bean pasta

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