Swiss Chard (Beta vulgaris var. cicla) is a leafy green vegetable often used in Mediterranean recipes and in salads. While the leaves are typically shiny-green and ribbed, the stalks can vary in color depending on the variety grown. The leaves are highly nutritious. Swiss Chard is also known simply as Chard, as well as Silverbeet, Perpetual Spinach, Spinach Beet, and Seakale Beet, among other names.
Swiss Chard is a cool-season vegetable. In most of the U.S. it is typically ready to harvest as early as April, and lasts until early June. Leaves can be cut from the plant during its growing season while still young and very tender, or after maturity when they are larger and have slightly tougher stems. When cut from the plant, the leaves become extremely perishable and need to be used then. Swiss Chard is one of the more hardy leafy greens since its harvest season typically lasts longer than kale, spinach or baby greens. When daytime temperatures start to regularly hit 85 °F, Swiss Chard is finished for the season.
Fresh young Swiss Chard is popular as raw in salads to add a “bite” among the various flavors of the other ingredients. When the plants mature, the leaves and stalks are typically cooked or sautéed, and any bitterness fades with cooking – leaving a refined flavor which is more delicate than that of cooked spinach. Swiss Chard is highly nutritious being high in vitamins A, K and C, as well as being rich in minerals, dietary fiber and protein.
Swiss Chard varieties vary by color. There are the green ones such as 'Lucullus' and 'Fordhook Giant', as well as red-ribbed forms such as 'Rhubarb Chard' and ‘Ruby Red’. A very popular variety – ‘Bright Lights’ – is a mix of several vibrant colors, and it makes an attractive plant in the garden, or even in or near flowers and ornamentals. As a general rule of thumb, the older green forms do tend to out-produce the colorful hybrids.