What is chard?
Chard is scientifically known as Beta vulgaris cicla. It
is a variety of the same species as beets and belongs to the same
family of chenopod vegetables as spinach, quinoa, epazote, and
palak. It shares a similar taste with a flavor that is bitter,
pungent, and slightly salty.
Chard got its common name from another Mediterranean vegetable,
cardoon, a celery-like plant with thick stalks that resemble those
of chard. The French called them both "carde." Although never grown
much in Switzerland, these greens were called "Swiss Chard" to
differentiate them from cardoons which were also called chard.
Cardoons are no longer called chard, so the "Swiss" part is now
redundant. In English, chard is also known as white beet,
strawberry spinach, seakale beet, leaf beet, Sicilian beet, spinach
beet, Chilean beet, Roman kale, and silverbeet. In Italian, the
words bietole and biete are both used to refer interchangeably to
chard and beet greens (Beta vulgaris Crassa). Technically, biete da
costa is chard, so named because it originally thrived in the
saline soil along the coasts, while biete da orta are beet greens,
so named because they were always a cultivated vegetable garden
plant. Costa also refers to the thick central stem ribs of the
chard, usually used to make soups, and sometimes refers to the
whole plant. The French blettes or bettes comes from the Latin
blitum, deriving from the Greek, while the Spanish word for chard,
acelgas, comes from the Arabic word al-silq, meaning chard.
Chard is a tall, leafy, green vegetable with a thick, crunchy
stalk and fan-like green leaves. The leaves may either be smooth or
curly, depending upon the variety, and feature lighter-colored ribs
running throughout. The stalk, which can measure almost two feet in
length, comes in a variety of colors including white, red, yellow,
and orange. Sometimes different colored varieties are bunched
together and labeled "rainbow chard." Although chard is available
throughout the year, its peak season runs from June through August
when it is at its best and in the greatest abundance at your local
supermarket. In the United States it planted by seed either in
March, or May. Because the small root bulb is left in the ground
when the leaves are cropped, chard refoliates, so repeated
harvesting is possible throughout the six-month growing season.