Take advantage of this delicious, colorful, and healthy green all season long

If the bountiful bright green leaves and multi-color stems of Swiss chard have beckoned to you from across the farmers market or even your supermarket, you're not alone. But perhaps some hesitation held you up. What is the best way to eat Swiss chard? How do I use it? And what's up with those big, colorful stems?

No need to fret — you can treat Swiss chard, a close relative to the beet, much like kale or spinach and use it to punch up anything from creamy bowls of risotto to shareable breakfast frittatas. A little less bitter than kale, the leaves pack a delicious punch, and some have likened the taste of the stems to bok choy. 

Plus, could spinach stand up enough to anchor this filling and healthy lunch wrap that's bound to be the envy of your lunch crew? Nope, that's a job for Swiss chard!

So go forth, grab that bunch from the checkered tablecloth-clad market stand. Here's how to buy, store, and cook chard. 

Rainbow Chard
Credit: Getty / LindasPhotography

How to buy and store chard

Choose chard bunches with firm, brightly colored stems (deep red, bright yellow, vibrant pink) and sturdy, glossy leaves (no spots, blemishes, or wilting). 

Once home, remove the elastic bands, wash and dry, and then store the bunch wrapped in slightly damp paper towels and tucked into an unsealed plastic bag. Swiss chard will keep in the fridge for up to a week.

When you're ready to use the chard, separate the leaves from the thick, celery-like stems. Unless you're using it for wraps (in which case you'll keep the leaves whole), fold each leaf in half lengthwise and cut out the stems. Stack the trimmed leaves, roll them up tightly and slice across into ribbons. (This method is called "chiffonade" if you want to feel fancy — here's a how-to video.)

And what do you do with the chard stems? Don't be so quick to toss them; they're actually edible as well. Dice them up for sautés, used them as veggie sticks for dips, or pickle them for an easy snack.

The best ways to cook and serve chard

Sauté it

When you sauté chard, the distinctive bitterness fades to a milder, sweeter taste. Try this or this simple preparation and you'll have a lovely side dish in minutes.

Pro tip: If you're including the stems, make sure to add them to the pan a few minutes before the leaves so they get nice and tender.

Stir it into soups and casseroles 

Simply add raw chard directly to soups and stews for an easy veggie (and vitamins A, C, and K) boost. We like it in this robust lentil soup or this lighter white bean soup and recommend adding it towards the end of cooking to keep the color bright. Pick up some phyllo dough while you're at the market and you can turn out this delicious Swiss chard spanakopita

Whip it into breakfast dishes

Any greens make a welcome addition to frittatas and quiches, and Swiss chard is no exception. For a standard quiche, coarsely chop the leaves and add it directly to the custard. Or go for this frittata packed with Swiss chard, onion, and yummy Gruy`ere cheese. 

Make it the star of your salad

Take a breather from the same old salads and take advantage of chard's fresh and peppery flavor. After slicing, gently massage your dressing into the leaves to help tenderize them. Or in this wilted chard and shaved fennel salad, cooking the greens for just a few minutes beforehand keeps them vibrant while making them nice and tender.