Swiss Chard Strikes the Chord


This wonderfully versatile plant is full of vitamans and dietary fiber, and can be eaten fresh, steamed, braised, juiced, sautéed, frozen or dried.

Is Swiss chard the new kale? Only time will tell, but this versatile vegetable should not be ignored. It’s a wonderfully nutritious plant that can be eaten fresh, steamed, braised, juiced, sautéed, frozen and/or dried.

It is full of dietary fiber and is great for your digestive tract. It’s full of vitamin K, which is good for your bones. It’s got carotenes, vitamins C and E in good supply, vitamin B6, calcium and protein, as well as a host of other nutrients.

Sturdier but more mellow than spin­ach, it has celery-like stems that add ­texture, and it’s available almost year-round.

Choose greens with large, juicy stems. Try red, rainbow or white-stemmed.

Refrigerate the chard in a plastic bag for up to three days. Before preparing, chard needs to be washed thoroughly. Place chard in a sink full of water, swish it around, and wait a few minutes; the sand will settle to the bottom. Remove the leaves, drain the sink and refill it, then repeat the process.

Try it in any recipe calling for spin­ach. Or these favorites:

Swiss Chard Vegetarian Dinner 
1 bunch green Swiss chard 
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 Tbsp. olive or vegetable oil
1 can (15.5 oz.) chickpeas, rinsed and well-drained
1⁄3 cup uncooked brown rice
1⁄3 cup raw wheat berries, sorted
1 tsp. ground turmeric
1⁄8 tsp. crushed red pepper
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 cups water
2 Tbsps. tahini, undiluted

Rinse, drain and trim chard. Pat completely dry.  Chop both stalks and leaves into bite-sized pieces. Heat oil in a large, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté garlic for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly.

Press chard in and sauté‚ until it wilts, about 3 minutes. Add chickpeas, rice, wheat ber­ries and seasonings, except tahini. Continue to sauté for an additional 3 to 4 minutes. Add 2 cups of water.  Cover pan and reduce heat to simmer.  

Simmer for about 30 to 40 minutes or until rice and wheat berries are completely cooked. Check water level frequently and add water if necessary. Remove from heat and stir in tahini. Serve immediately.

Serves 4 to 6. 

Madras Chard
4 bunches ruby red or green Swiss chard, leaves only
1 and 1⁄2 Tbsps. olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 whole dried red pepper
1 tsp. ground turmeric
1⁄2 tsp. ground cumin
1⁄2 tsp. ground ginger
1⁄2 cup plain yogurt
3 Tbsps. brown sugar
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Rinse, trim and dry the chard leaves. Chop coarsely into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large, nonstick skillet. Stir in minced onion and sauté‚ about one minute. Add the garlic, dried pepper, turmeric, cumin and ginger. Sauté‚ 2 minutes.

Add the prepared chard, pressing it in, and cook until wilted, using tongs to ensure even cooking. Lower heat to low. Stir in yogurt and brown sugar. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Cook, uncovered about 2 minutes. Remove dried pepper. Serve immediately. 

Serves 6.

Swiss Chard Pesto
1 bunch green Swiss chard (leaves only)
1 cup flat-leaf parsley, stemmed
1⁄2 cup fresh basil leaves
3 garlic cloves, halved
3⁄4 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
3⁄4 cup olive oil
8 Tbsps. hot water
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Rinse, drain and trim the chard leaves. Pat completely dry. Tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces.

Mince in two batches in blend­er or food processor, scraping sides as necessary.

Add parsley, basil, garlic and cheese. Mince until a uniform consistency is achieved. Add olive oil slowly while machine is running.

Gradually add the hot water while continuing to blend. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Store in a tightly sealed, covered container in refrigerator. 

Serves 10.

Easy Chard Dip
A variation of the 1960s California dip.
1 bunch green or ruby red Swiss chard, leaves only
1 cup sour cream 
1 cup plain yogurt
1 medium onion
3 scallions, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths

Rinse, drain and trim chard leaves. Steam for 2 minutes over boiling water in a metal steamer.

Drain in a colander, pressing out excess liquid with the back of a spoon. Mince the onion in a food processor. Set aside. Do not wash out processor bowl. Purée chard leaves, scraping sides as necessary, until a fine consistency is achieved.

Combine chard with remaining ingredients. Chill, tightly closed, for at least 2 hours.

Use as an appetizer with crudités, breadsticks or crackers. May also be used as a salad dressing or ladled over any steamed vegetable. 

Serves 10.

Rivka Tal is a former Minne­sotan who has lived in Jerusalem for the past 46 years. She is a food writer and translator. Email her at:


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