Try these Swiss chard recipes, chard is a versatile vegetable that can make a meal nutritious and delicious.
I can't help it. I've been growing Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris cicla) for three years, and I've become so hooked on this wonderful plant that I just can't help raving about it. Wouldn't you talk up a food crop that's  easy to grow,  colorful enough to serve as an ornament,  mild-tasting,  loaded with nutrients and  exceedingly resistant to pests?
Chard's beauty sets it apart from most garden greens. Its tall, curly-edged, dark-green leaves with their slender, ivory-white centers make the plant truly an "edible decoration." (For that reason, Beta vulgaris cicla is just as eye-pleasing when grown in a pot as it is sown along the borders of a path or in traditional rows.) And with no more care than the regular waterings and feedings that you extend to the other inhabitants of your garden, chard quickly grows lush and strong and stays that way. Fact is, if you're careful to harvest only the leaves, the plant's rootstocks will continue to flourish and send up plume-like foliage year after year . . . in which case you'll never have to buy seed again and will be able to try numerous different chard recipes.
Chard isn't just "another pretty face in the pea patch," however, it's also good for you. Only 100 grams (about 3 1/2 ounces) of Beta vulgaris cicla — briefly steamed or cooked in a little water till limp — contain 1.8 grams of protein, 1.8 milligrams of iron and 5,400 international units (more than the minimum adult daily requirement) of vitamin A. And if you eat the greens raw, the figures are even more impressive: The same 100 grams of uncooked chard contain 2.4 grams of protein, 3.2 milligrams of iron, 6,500 international units of vitamin A and 32 milligrams of vitamin C to boot.
But alas, the flavor of chard is not what you'd call "exciting." Chard — in fact — is rather bland and lacks the zip of, say, spinach or mustard greens. Perhaps this is just as well. Many people prefer delicately flavored vegetables, and as luck would have it, a large number of garden pests don't. (Snails and slugs, for instance, have been known to turn down chard in favor of nearby plantings of spinach or romaine.) Those of us who wish to enhance chard's rather benign taste, however, can do so easily by preparing the greens with such flavory companions as garlic, onions, and/or cheese.
By now, you have — I trust — had your "chard consciousness" raised, your sense of frugality stimulated and (I hope) your curiosity aroused. If so, do go out and invest 39 cents in a packet of Swiss chard seed (a packet that — once planted — may well keep you supplied with the food forever). You have nothing to lose . . . and a whole new dimension of aesthetic and gustatory delight to savor with the following Swiss chard recipes.
See the Swiss chard recipes at the top of this article.
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