Botanical name: Beta vulgaris var. vulgaris
If the care of a vegetable garden was, in the past, together with the breeding of small animals, a real method of obtaining food and guaranteeing one's own survival, in recent years, cultivation has mostly become a pleasant hobby. More and more people, in fact, are looking for a rapprochement with nature, often forgotten due to the frenetic pace of city work, through the care of a land used as a vegetable garden. A type of vegetable that is ideal for starting this type of activity is chard.
Origins and history
Chard, also called Swiss chard, is an annual or biennial herbaceous plant of a variety of the beet family. This vegetable has large glossy green leaves with sturdy white, yellow or reddish stems, depending on the variety. The origin of this tasty plant is located in Southern Europe, where it arises spontaneously, but, over the years, we have become aware of numerous species that differ from each other, in addition to the color, also for the possibility to proceed with its cultivation in every part of the world.
Nutritional and beneficial properties of chard
This tasty plant, a cousin of the sugar beet, boasts numerous beneficial aspects for the body, if included in the daily diet; one of the first positive aspects that characterizes this tasty vegetable is certainly the very low caloric intake: 100 grams of fresh leaves contain, in fact, only 19 kilocalories.
Another very important aspect, which the body can enjoy by taking chard regularly, is the fundamental supply of ascorbic acid.The consumption of foods rich in this principle, more commonly called vitamin C, allows the body to develop greater resistance against infectious agents. Furthermore, they are known for their beneficial properties in preventing iron deficiency. The leaves of this vegetable provide 33% of the daily requirement of this principle.
Vitamin C, however, is not the only very important acid for human health that can be introduced by regularly consuming this food: chard, in fact, is also particularly rich in vitamin K, vitamin A and antioxidant flavonoids.
By analyzing vitamin K in detail, it is possible to recognize a fundamental role in bone health, as well as an important help in limiting neuronal damage in the brain. Between vitamin A and the antioxidant falvonoids, however, it is important to remember beta-carotenes and lutein.
Last but not least, it is useful to analyze the important presence of mineral salts; such as iron, copper, calcium, sodium, manganese and phosphorus. It is thanks to these elements that the consumption of this vegetable can help prevent anemia caused by iron deficiency, osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease.
Use of chard in the kitchen
It is possible to consume all the parts of the chard: after careful treatment it is advisable to bring to the table both the leaf, characterized by a bright green and a more delicate flavor, and the stem, with a fleshy consistency and a strong taste. The leaves, if harvested when they are still quite small, can be eaten in light and tasty summer salads.
A particular recipe, which involves the use of cooked leaves, can be traced back to a salad that is also perfect for the winter: after having blanched the vegetables in boiling water, it is advisable to dress them with oil and lemon, as well as a quantity of salt to taste, and serve garnished with seeds and dried fruit, such as sesame, almonds or pine nuts. A side dish as fast as it is pleasant for the palate that takes only a few minutes to prepare, consists in sautéing, until cooked, the stalks and leaves of the beet, flavoring everything with garlic and chilli. A spoonful of extra virgin olive oil and as much salt as you think is sufficient for the dressing. In anticipation of a winter dinner, perhaps consumed in front of a good movie, it is possible to freeze the leaves after boiling them and then cook them in a tasty soup.
Few people know that, despite the cultivation of chard has now spread all over the world, its vast culinary use is known only in the countries of Southern Europe. The rest of the world considers it an ornamental plant.