Chard is related to beets, which may help to explain the deep red ribs of some varieties. At a farmers market last year, some ruby chard caught my eye, the bright ribs contrasting beautifully with the shiny green leaves. Unsure how to use it, I asked the vendor, who suggested a simple sauté — a little like the recipe below.
"Lungs of the World"
"Ancient wisdom and modern science both agree that this vegetable supports the respiratory and circulatory system in a unique way," says Laurel Herman, who provided the recipe. "Leafy greens are said to be the lungs of the world, and I love the beauty of the wisdom behind that saying."
Easy to cook
Herman says that even inexperienced cooks can prepare chard. "Add a dash of freshly squeezed lemon, and you have a winner," she says. "It goes great alongside some wild salmon." Chard is also good with pasta and omelets. (Note that the ribs need more cooking time than the spinach-like leaves do.)
Chard is Mediterranean in origin, and its roots can be found in the Latin carduus (thistle) and the French carde (for cardoon, part of the artichoke family). The word "Swiss" was added, according to various sources, in 19th-century seed catalogs.
Steamed Swiss Chard
Laurel Herman, author of The Inner Kitchen, contributed this recipe. Herman's gluten-free cookbook (available through Amazon) notes in its preface that "When prepared with affection and intention, wholesome organic foods are a potent healing modality." Recipes are accompanied by reflections on the ingredients.
Herman, a Richmond-area resident who works in the kitchen at Good Foods Grocery in Gayton Crossing Shopping Center, is studying with the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and plans to start her own health coaching business.
1 large bunch of Swiss chard (red or white)
1 to 2 cloves of garlic, smashed and seasoned with a pinch of sea salt
2 tablespoons of organic cold-pressed olive oil
Sea salt to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon)
Crushed red pepper or black pepper to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon)
Wash the chard and set it on a large cutting board. With a knife, lay each piece down and slice the middle rib on either side so that only the green is left. Discard the ribs or set them aside for vegetable stock. Chop the chard into 2-inch or 3-inch pieces. Drizzle olive oil liberally into a 3-quart saucepan. Toast the garlic and sea salt over medium heat until it turns light brown. Add in the pepper and chard. Toss the ingredients and cover them for about 5 minutes, or until tender.