Chard is a tall, leafy, green vegetable commonly referred to as Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris). Chard has a thick, crunchy stalk to which fan-like, wide, green leaves are attached. The leaves may either be smooth or curly, depending on the variety with lighter-coloured ribs running throughout. The stalk comes in a variety of colours — white, red, yellow and orange. Sometimes, in the market, different coloured varieties will be bunched together and labelled "rainbow chard." Both the leaves and the stalk of chard are edible, although the stems vary in texture, the white ones being the tenderest. Choose chard from a chilled display as this helps ensure it has a crunchier texture and sweeter taste. Look for leaves that are vivid green in colour and that do not display any browning or yellowing. The leaves should not be wilted nor should they have holes. The stalks should look crisp and be unblemished.

To store chard, put it without washing into a plastic bag, and place it in the refrigerator. It will keep fresh for several days. If you have large batches of chard, you can blanch the leaves and then freeze them.

Swiss chard is an excellent source of vitamins K, A, C, E, B2 and B6, magnesium, manganese, potassium, iron, dietary fibre, copper, calcium and protein.

Now, for a recipe.

Stir-fried Swiss chard with lentils

Ingredients

Dried brown lentils: 2 cups

Torn Swiss chard: 6 cups

Carrot (chopped): 1 cup

Onion (chopped): 3 cups

Low fat butter: 2 tbsp

Salt: one-and-three-fourth tsp

Black pepper: half tsp

Ground cumin: 1 tsp

Garlic (crushed): 2 cloves

Parsley sprigs: 2

Bay leaf: 2

Fresh lemon juice: 1 tbsp

Method: Combine the lentils, carrots, salt, garlic, parsley and bay leaves in a pot, and bring it to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes.

Melt butter in a skillet; add onion and cumin. Sauté till browned.

Stir the onion into the lentil mixture. Now, add the chard. Simmer for 10 minutes until the chard is tender. Add lemon juice and black pepper and serve hot.

Chef de Partie

Taj Connemara

Keywords: Swiss chard