Spring is here, with warmer days and shorter nights that move us to a new rhythm. This is the perfect time of year to adopt a detoxifying diet, one that boosts metabolism and clears away the mental fog of a long, harsh winter. By eating an abundance of seasonal produce paired with whole grains, healthy fats, and fresh herbs, we can start our "spring cleaning" from the inside out. Chard is a perfect leafy green to include in a rejuvenating early spring meal.
Chard is a member of the chenopod family, its closest relatives being beets, quinoa and spinach. Known for its broad, almost velvety green leaves and thick stalks of vibrant magenta, crimson red, bold orange, opaque white, and vivid yellow, it seems to come from the mind of a painter and not possibly the seeds of a farmer. And with far less hubris than kale, chard is favored for its versatility, milder and a bit sweeter than collards or mustard greens, but holding up as well to high heat cooking as it does as a raw addition to salad.
Cultivated since at least 350 B.C., chard is an early staple of the Mediterranean diet. The Ancient Greeks believed chard to bear medicinal properties, and this is not without good reason. We know now that chard is rich in antioxidants, metabolic boosters, anti-inflammatories, compounds to support detoxification, and 13 known phytonutrients that protect our heart, lungs, digestive system, and skin -- making chard a especially great for fighting seasonal allergies.
In order to best make use of the bounty of over-wintered and early spring greens available at markets, and bring energy to your first spring meals, try pairing chard with lighter offerings such as fresh herbs, citrus, vinegars. Or try our recipe for swiss chard and quinoa cakes drizzled with basil sauce, lemon chickpeas and roasted red cabbage.