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A beautiful shade of green

Considered a vegetable valedictorian by experts, Swiss chard is ahead of its class with an unprecedented amount of nutritional qualities.

Considered a vegetable valedictorian by experts, Swiss chard is ahead of its class with an unprecedented amount of nutritional qualities. From the same powerhouse family as beets and spinach, chard portrays the bitterness of beet greens mixed with the saltiness of spinach leaves rounding out its taste profile with crunchy and slightly buttery flavoured stalks. I would never consider eating it raw but I am eager to eat it chopped and steamed, stalk and all with aged balsamic drizzled on top. A great accompaniment to white fish, pasta and bland veggies, you won't be hard pressed to find chefs inspired by the uniqueness of chard. Not only does its color lend well to display it has been used in gnocchi, cheese bakes, pizza, soups, omelettes and more.

Chard was used for centuries for medicinal purposes and today several research studies on chard focus specifically on colon cancer, where the incidence of precancerous lesions in animals has been found to be significantly reduced following dietary intake of Swiss chard extracts or fibres. Preliminary animal research also suggests that Swiss chard may confer a protective effect on the kidneys of those with diabetes through reducing serum urea and creatinine levels.

I have to give Swiss chard an A+ for its quality and quantity of vitamins and minerals showing copious amounts of vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, magnesium, manganese, potassium, iron, vitamin E, and dietary fiber. Swiss chard also emerges as a pretty decent source of copper, calcium, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, protein, phosphorus, vitamin B1, zinc, folate, biotin, niacin and pantothenic acid.

With such high amounts of vitamin K and magnesium, I must share with you that this is the perfect solution for building up strong bones as its properties anchor calcium molecules inside of the bone. One cup of Swiss chard contains just 35 calories, but provides 109.9 per cent of the daily value for beta carotene which is not only essential for vision health but also important for lung wellbeing and can prevent skin cancer.

Swiss chard's copious amounts of Iron tell me that this is the green for increasing energy levels and keeping my immune system strong. Not to mention the fact that its vitamin E rank keeps free radicals at bay, lessens hot flashes during menopause and is an effective anti inflammatory. I am eating more because of findings that mental performance normally declines with age, but the results of Chicago Health and Aging Project (CHAP) suggest that eating just three servings of green leafy, yellow and cruciferous vegetables each day could slow this decline by 40 per cent, according to a study in the journal Neurology (Morris MC, Evans DA, et al.)

Bottom line? This beautiful green has earned a new status in my daily meal plan.

Catalina Summer Greens

2 tbsp pine nuts

1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 large onion, coarsely chopped (I prefer cut in quarters and then slice thinly pole-to-pole)

1 bunch Swiss chard, about a pound, washed, leaves and stalks separated (pull leaves off the stalks by folding together along stalk and pull the stalk away like pulling a zipper)

2 tbsp golden raisins

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1/4 tsp salt

Ground black pepper to taste

Toast the pine nuts until golden brown, set aside to cool.

In a large deep skillet or a Dutch oven heat the oil over medium-low heat, add the onions and cook them until golden brown and very soft, stirring from time to time, for about 10 minutes.

While the onions are cooking, cut the chard stalks into strips two inches long by a quarter inch wide and tear the leaves into two-inch pieces.

Add the chard stalks and raisins to the onions and cook them until the stalks are tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Stir occasionally while the stalks are cooking. Once tender add the leaves and vinegar, toss all about to coat the leaves with the oil, and cook about five minutes or until the leaves are wilted and tender. Season with salt and pepper, transfer to a serving dish and top with the reserved pine nuts.

You may serve this as a side dish or toss it with olive oil and your favorite pasta.