Sunday, January 22, 2012

Veggieosity: Chard

Have I mentioned how much I love my grocery store? Berkeley Bowl is sort of famous in the SF Bay area. Before moving here from across the Bay, whenever I mentioned Berkeley, people would almost always say, "Oh, have you been to Berkeley Bowl?!" I had no clue what all the fuss was about.

Now that we live here, Berkeley Bowl West is my go-to place. It is kind of like a more hippie Whole Foods, with incredible variety and the largest produce department you will ever see. I sort of feel like Julie Andrews in the Berkeley Bowl produce section - I'm ready to run around, grabbing persimmons, kabocha squashes, and Swiss Chard, singing.... OK, maybe not. My singing voice sucks. But, it's the kind of place where you get excited about fresh, healthy food, where you find new items every time you go, and where people will strike up a conversation in the aisle about this or that vegetable or health food product, and what to do with it.

On one such occasion, a fellow Berkeley Bowl-er was pondering what to do with rainbow chard.

Now, when I was growing up, our vegetables were pretty standard: broccoli, peas, corn, carrots and spinach graced our plates. Until moving to California, I'd never used chard myself. If you haven't either, take my advice: go buy some. It is now one of my favorite veggies.

Chard is a leafy green vegetable with big, fan-like leaves that are a little thick, and stalks that vary in color from white, to yellow, red (bright pink), and orange. These types may be called Swiss, Red, Green, and Rainbow. The taste can be described as bitter prior to cooking, but after sauteing with a little olive oil and garlic, it's awesome. Sort of sweet but hearty too.

Recently, I've been loving Swiss and Rainbow Chard. I have no problem polishing off a bunch for dinner. But until a few days ago, I hadn't seen green chard. So of course I had to buy that and try it too!

Green Chard
I think in the end the taste is pretty similar between the different colors of chard, but there may be subtle differences- I think the red stalks might be a little sweeter. But... I definitely enjoyed the green chard as well. I like them all!

In answer to my fellow Berkeley Bowl shopper wondering to do with chard- it is soooo easy to enjoy.

How to cook chard (one very easy option):
  1. Wash and then chop in strips, discarding the hard ends of the stalks only.
  2. Heat a little olive oil (<1 Tbsp) in a large saute pan with a clove of garlic, chopped. Add the chard, cover, and cook for 2-3 minutes until just wilted. 
  • Other cooking options: boiling chard in water apparently brings out more of the sweet flavor; just make sure not to overcook it. You can also saute as above but without any oil, though more of the bitter flavor will remain.
    An easy meal including chard:
    • The "veggie bowl" -place some washed chopped broccoli florets a large pan with a little olive oil & garlic and cover, allowing to steam for about 2-3 minutes (I run the broccoli under water before adding it to the pan, so a little water is reserved for steaming). Add the sliced chard, cover, and cook another 2 minutes and then remove from heat & uncover. Top with some hummus and avocado. It sounds really simple, but it is really simply so good and satisfying!
    Chard also works beautifully with my polenta stacks.

    Amazingly beautiful 'rainbow' chard

    Chard nutrition information:
    Chard is incredibly healthy. It's very high in vitamins A, K, and C, and is also high in calcium and B vitamins, and has a few grams of both fiber and protein per serving to boot.  Impressive, right?! It's hearty, filling, fresh, and beautiful.

    Yummy greens!


    1. I love Rainbow Swis Chard - I grew it in my garden last year and picked the baby chard and used them in salads and sandwiches in place of lettuce- absolutely amazing!

      Glad to know I am not the only one that gets giddy and ready to burst into song around amazing fresh fruits and veggies :-)

      1. Oh wow- to have it in my backyard, that would be even better! Sounds awesome... now I am craving more...


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