This vegetable is from the same family as the beet. Their common ancestor is the sea beet, which grew wild on the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean. It was domesticated by the Celts around 2,000 BC. There is early evidence of Swiss chard in the gardens of Babylon (present-day southern Iraq) and at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi in Greece. It was later found in India and China towards the 7th century.

Charlemagne was fond of Swiss chard and had it planted in vegetable gardens in France. This vegetable had an important presence in medieval cuisine. Together with the leek, it formed the base of a vegetable and herb soup known as poirée or porée. Swiss chard is called poirée in certain French-speaking areas; it is known as joutte in others.

Swiss chard is still little known in North America today.

Thick bunch, firm white stalks, shiny green leaves, beaded with moisture.

Fresh and always in bunches. Frozen stalks. 

2 or 3 days in a cool room or refrigerator.

Separated out and wrapped in a damp cloth, the stalks keep longer than the leaves.

Swiss chard is very low in calories. It is a very rich in antioxidant carotenoids, particularly the leaves, and a good source of folic acid (vitamin B9).

But they are also high in oxalic acid and should be avoided by those suffering from oxalic lithiasis (kidney stones). 

There are numerous varieties of chard. The best known are spinach beet, Verte a Carde Blanche (from Bérac, Ampuis, Paris, or Nice), bionda di Lyon, Bright Light, Bright Yellow, and Chilean beet.

Swiss chard is available in European markets from April through June, and from September through January.

Young chard can be found from April through July.