Swiss chard is one of the valedictorians of the vegetable world: true to its leafy green form, it is loaded with nutrients and vitamins that provide significant health benefits. With seven times the daily recommended value of vitamin K—and a hearty dose of calcium to boot—Swiss chard is a major power player in bone health (Vitamin K1 prevents the activation of osteoclasts, cells that break down bone). The gorgeous green also provides 100 percent of your daily vitamin A and about half of your daily vitamin C, powerful antioxidants that combat oxidative stress and the diseases linked to it. Studies have also shown that Swiss chard is quite helpful in regulating blood sugar and can be a valuable addition to the diet of diabetics. High amounts of a slew of other nutrients including magnesium, potassium, manganese, iron, vitamin E and copper, make this one heck of a well-rounded vegetable.
While it is generally available year-round here in California, Swiss chard comes into peak season when the weather gets warm, typically June through August. Final fun fact: Swiss chard is not actually native to Switzerland. Hailing from the Mediterranean, the name apparently originated after some confusion in the French seed market: the French sold similar-looking cardoon and chard under the same name, and eventually “Swiss” was added as a distinguisher. (Why they chose “Swiss” and not “Italian” is still a mystery to me.)
The Banquet: Steamed Chard with Candied Ginger
Recipe adapted from Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini by Elizabeth Schneider
Most chard recipes, including this one, call for discarding the stem and eating only the leaves. It is true that the stems are very fibrous and can be tough, but here in our neck of the Los Angeles woods not all of us have room for composting, and I can’t bear to throw out all that stem for a tiny leaf. Besides, I don’t know what the fuss is about; when cooking chard, I always begin the chopped stems a minute or two before I add the leaves. The extra cook time softens them right up and makes your dish a bit more substantial, too.
1 tablespoon full-flavored olive oil
1 teaspoon grated lemon and or orange zest
Prepare chard by washing well and cutting up coarsely. Steam stems for two minutes; add leaves and steam for another five or so minutes. Toss chard with salt and pepper, grated lemon and and or orange zest, lemon juice, candied ginger, and olive oil. Transfer to serving dish. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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