You may recall the blog I did previously on quinoa, well chard is also in the same plant family, (so perhaps that's another reason why this leafy green has it's own "super food" qualities!)
Chard is beautiful large green leaves that grow on stalks, (similar to that of rhubarb, but chard is entirely edible!), and is also a Chenopodiaceae- belonging to the Beetroot family of plants: beetroot, spinach, chard, and quinoa. Chard, is known as "cardus" in Latin- which means "thistle"?? (Doesn't really fit, does it?!) Chard has been grown and consumed historically as much as 1500 years prior to beetroot, and originates in the Mediterranean region. Another "ancient" food that was highly regarded for it's medicinal properties by the Romans and Greeks, and even the great Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote about this plant!
How did "Swiss Chard" come to be if it's not originally from Northern Europe? Well, although the plant hails from the Mediterranean region, chard has been so highly cultivated in Switzerland, that the chard grown there became known as "Swiss Chard"! It was also used by seed cataloguers in the 19th century to distinguish the Swiss variety from the French Spinach. Out of the different varieties of chard, Rainbow Chard is so striking because of it's variety in colored stalks: red, yellow, pink, orange, white, and purple! Chard tastes similar to spinach, and can basically be used the same in most dishes. However, chard has a very high content of oxalic acid, and it's recommended that the leaves/stalks be boiled or steamed, prior to consuming or using in recipes. There's differing information on this, but I tend to err on the side of caution! By doing this, you won't be decreasing the nutritional content either. Here is a list of the incredible health benefits of chard:
Incredibly high in Vitamin K- a key component in bone health, the prevention of osteoporosis, and also in limiting neuronal damage in the brain of Alzheimer's patients!
High in Vitamins A, C, and E
Great source of Magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc, calcium, B2, and B6
Contains a good source of fiber
Very high in phytonutrients- which are great anti-oxidant properties
Studies have suggested actual pancreatic cell regeneration
Aids in prevention of cardiovascular disease and some types of cancers
Excellent for maintaining healthy vision
Contains anti-inflammatory agents
Contains unique benefits in regulation of blood sugar levels
Rainbow Chard and other varieties can be found in most markets and grocers. It's a highly versatile vegetable, and it has also become a very popular method to "juice" the leaves/stalks as well! Can be used as a stand-alone vegetable to accompany most any dish, and is great in soups, stews, dips, salads, casseroles, etc. However you would like to consume or prepare this beautiful and nutritious vegetable is entirely up to you! But if you haven't ever tried chard, look in the produce department for some the next time you go shopping!