Species Beta vulgaris (for some reason bearing a vulgar name) includes some economically important crops like sugar beets that produce table sugar, mangelwurzel or fodder beet, whose white or orange-yellow swollen roots feed livestock, and leaf vegetable, known as chard or spinach beet, that nourish people during their strong urge for salad leaves. You definitely heard another name – Swiss chard.
The plant isn’t native to Switzerland, so it’s unclear where the name “Swiss” comes from. However, it had been hypothesized that it might be attributed to the Swiss botanist Gaspard Bauhin who first described it. But we know chard not by “Swiss” alone. It has many other names. From common leaf beet and beet spinach to beautiful silver or seakale beet to charming pet perpetual beet.
But charming are not only the names but also the colours. Except for the classic green, there are also ruby, golden, pink, orange, yellow, and white varieties. The latter is the reason why chard is sometimes called “silver beet”. The colours are so strikingly bright that one can create a beautiful raw crunchy rainbow dish out of a single plant alone. Of course, we would need additional textures and tastes, because, despite its good looks, chard can come out quite bland. That’s why it’s so often cooked with spices. The classic dish is garlicky Swiss chard.
Cut 2 bunches of leafy vegetables into strips and toss them into a preheated skillet with 1 Tbsp of olive oil (or any other oil of your choice). Add 2-3 finely minced cloves of garlic, a pinch or two of chilli flakes and another good pinch of salt. Cover the skillet and cook for 2-3 minutes until the chard is wilted. Uncover and finish cooking to let the extra moisture evaporate. Serve it as a side dish to any roasted meat, fried shellfish, or cooked polenta. It’s also a great idea to start your day with leafy greens. If you are that kind of person, don’t forget to fry an egg and a couple of bacon strips together with cherry tomatoes to get a nice hearty dish.
Don’t want to saute your greens? Blanch them! Take the same 2 bunches, boil for a couple of minutes, drain and set aside. Take pumpkin seeds, nuts of your choice, sesame seeds, or a little bit of everything and toast until lightly browned and fragrant in a small skillet over medium heat. Set aside.
Heat some oil in a medium skillet, add 1 thinly sliced medium onion and cook it until it becomes translucent and soft. Toss in some dried fruits (raisins, peaches, dates, figs, prunes), then add everything that’s been waiting and serve on a big platter. Season with more salt and pepper if needed and sprinkle with freshly squeezed lemon juice. Gorgeous.