Chard—which is often called Swiss chard in the United States and is known as silver beet or sea kale beet in Britain—can still be found locally fresh just about everywhere that snow has not yet hit the ground.
Chard is harvested from late spring until late fall. Right now keep your eyes peeled for rainbow chard. The variety you are likely to find is called “Bright Lights.” It is a cacophony of dazzling multicolored stems: gold, pink, orange, purple, red, mauve and white in electric and pastel variations. The stems are set off by deep green or bronze leaves.
Chard can be harvested at maturity when the leaves reach about 6 inches (15 cm) in length or when smaller for the mild baby chard taste. If you choose rainbow chard, you’ll want to wait until the plant is mature and the stems are at their most colorful.
Choose. Select chard with stalks that are crisp and unblemished and with leaves that are tender and evenly colored. Chard can be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Serve. You can prepare chard stalks like asparagus and the greens like spinach. Be sure to prepare them separately. You can blanch the stalks in salted water for 1 to 2 minutes or until tender. If you steam the stalks allow 8 to 15 minutes and if you braise them in the oven allow 20 to 30 minutes for them to cook. Tender, fresh chard leaves can be served raw in salads just like spinach or they can be cooked like spinach, allowing 5 to 8 minutes when steaming or boiing.