Ingredient of the Week: Swiss Chard

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What is it? I'd heard of it, seen it at the grocery store and read about how delicious and healthy it is, but I'd never tried Swiss chard until last week, when I was looking for a leafy green to serve with dinner. It was much less bitter than I expected and also cooked much quicker.

Considered a super-food because it is so nutrient-rich, Swiss chard is second only to spinach in total nutrient concentration. In addition to providing more than 700 percent of your daily value of Vitamin K, more than 100 percent of Vitamin A and more than half the recommended amount of Vitamin C, Swiss chard also contains at least 13 different antioxidants. One of the most prevalent antioxidants found in the leaves is now being studied for its ability to help regulate blood sugar.

There are several varieties of chard - some with white stems (which tend to be more tender and edible when cooked) and hybrids with multi-colored stems, but they're all relatives of the beet.

How is it used? The younger, more tender chard leaves and stems can be used raw, in salads. Mature leaves should be cooked to reduce bitterness.

One source recommended boiling chard leaves for at least three minutes to reduce the oxalic acid. Oxalic acid is toxic in large quantities and can cause kidney stones when concentrated enough in the body. But don't worry too much about the amount of oxalic acid in chard - a quick blanching of the vegetable is only a precaution, not a necessity.

The vegetable is also widely used throughout the Mediterranean, where it is thought to have originated, despite its label of "Swiss."

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Where can I buy it? Any grocery store with a good produce section. I found both white-stemmed and red-stemmed varieties at the large H-E-B on Bunker Hill.

Recipe: Italian-style Swiss Chard: Courtesy of Allrecipes.com

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