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Chard, a light and versatile vegetable

Chard represents a subspecies of garden beet. They are among the most widely consumed vegetables, having been eaten throughout Italy and the Mediterranean region for thousands of years. According to botany, they are the offspring of an annual or biennial herbaceous plant. It is a vegetable that is constantly available because it can be harvested throughout the year, depending on the sowing period.

These are very light vegetables, with only 20 kcal per 100 grammes. However, this does not imply that they are low in nutrients; on the contrary, they are an excellent source of iron, potassium, and vitamin C. Because of their high fibre content, they are a wonder food for digestive issues. In addition, certain antioxidants and a diuretic (occasionally detoxifying) quality make chards desirable.

The types of chard

As a vegetable, chard is a variant of another kind. Therefore, chard is quite homogeneous, with no major differences between one specimen and another. However, there are two main varieties of chard. Here they are:

  • Broad-leaved. In this case, the leaves are not only large but also very fleshy. The stem is very white and pleasantly crunchy.
  • Small-leaved. This variety is characterised by smaller leaves, which are generally darker, more tender, and have a sweet flavour. They resemble spinach, both in flavour and appearance.

How to use them in the kitchen

The most traditional, but perhaps least tasty, way of consuming this vegetable is simply boiling it. Unlike many varieties of chard, chard cannot be eaten raw, as the leaves are quite thick, difficult to chew, and difficult to digest. However, there are many other ways to enhance them in numerous recipes that see them as protagonists. The reference is to a side dish in which it is the protagonist.

Risottos are also very interesting, as they include meat-based products. Chard, then, can be used as a side dish for rather elaborate meats, especially if they have a sweet and sour flavor. Furthermore, like many other vegetables, they can be transformed into cream or puree. Obviously, soups in which chard interacts excellently with many other ingredients cannot be missed.

Another way to use this precious vegetable is by making chard flan, a savoury dish that is prepared almost as if it were a tiramisu. Specifically, the coffee solution is replaced by the most classic of béchamel, cocoa by parmesan, mascarpone by chard, and ladyfingers by soft bread. It is a difficult recipe to prepare precisely because it offers its own vision, the result of a particular idea, as well as a flash of imagination. In reality, as soon as you understand the rationale with which the list of ingredients was composed, it becomes child’s play. Among the elements that most characterise this flan, chard stands out. It is a vegetable that is categorised as ‘poor’ but that deserves to be integrated into the everyday diet.

The main benefits of chard

Like many other vegetables, chard is good for your health. Here are the main benefits they are able to bring:

Strengthening the immune system. This function is determined by the abundance of vitamin C but also depends on some mineral salts, particularly those present in beets, such as zinc.

Optimisation of blood flow. The abundance of vitamin K, which is actually very rare in nature, promotes a good degree of blood density. This helps prevent some thrombotic diseases.

Serves as an antioxidant. Chard is rich in antioxidants, which help prevent cancer and slow down aging. The reference is also to beta-carotene and chlorophyll, which act in this sense.

Pregnancy support. In particular, chard guarantees a decent supply of iron and promotes the absorption of this mineral. Once again, the presence of vitamin C has an impact.

Blood sugar optimisation. Although to a lesser extent than other vegetables, chard contributes to good blood sugar control. This is truly important for those suffering from diabetes.

What are the main varieties of chard?

I’ve already discussed the differences between narrow-leaved and broad-leaved chard. It is now worthwhile to explore the subject further and enumerate a few interesting varieties.

White rib chard. It is the classic garden chard and is called “vulgaris”. The leaves, when cooked, have a delicate, full-bodied flavour similar to that of spinach, while the ribs are aromatic. The leaves are dark green, while the ribs are very light and tend towards white.

Multicoloured chard. The leaves tend to be green, while the ribs can take on shades of amaranth and yellow. The flavour is more delicate than classic chard and takes on slightly sour notes.

Leafy chard. The leaves are light green, as are the ribs, which sometimes tend towards yellow. The flavour is more intense but sweeter than other varieties. Furthermore, the leaves are more tender, so they can also be consumed raw.