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Seasonal Eats: Celebrating Swiss Chard

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Swiss chard piled high at the market (Photo by Heather Parlato for LAist)
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By Heather Parlato/Special to LAist

If you’ve been in LA for the last few days, I don’t need to explain why we’re so lucky to live in a mild climate where so many delicious things are seasonal through winter. Swiss chard is a cool-weather leafy green that loves the southern California climate and grows here year-round if you can give it enough sun in winter, and partially shade it in summer. If you love swiss chard, hopefully you’ll get some new ideas on how to use it. If you haven’t loved it yet, it’s never too late—read on!

Swiss chard is in the same family as spinach and beets, and was named “swiss” to differentiate it from French spinach by 19th century seed catalog publishers. Chard is a bit more firm than spinach and develops a slightly bitter flavor as it matures, which makes it better for salads when young, better for cooking as it grows. As a health food, chard is an excellent source of vitamins A, C and K, minerals and dietary fiber, and only has a glycemic load of 1.

If your main beef with chard has been that it’s bitter, the ways you make this work in your favor are by adding lemon or vinegar, and tame it with a good sauté. I especially like the simplicity of enjoying chard’s flavor with lemony chard with pine nuts, or a common breakfast in my house, sauteed swiss chard and onions. Since I’m a fan of all the winter greens with garlic, grab a selection and try this garlicky greens concoction. Kick it up with hot sauce if you want, I’ve never met one that doesn’t go well with swiss chard. These sautés are great on their own, but if you want to use them as a base for something else, throw in some sautéed squid!