Beets, Chards

Beets, Chards

Beets and Chards are chenopods, a sub family of the amaranthaceae family (which also has spinach, quinoa, and amaranth). (Wikipedia – Amaranthaceae). So I figured I’d group them together here.

Beets were first cultivated by the ancient Romans, and were popularized when Napoleon declared them to be used as the primary source of sugar when the British restricted access to sugarcane.1. The beetroot is indeed quite sweet, but the fact it is high in fiber makes it low on the glycemic load (i.e. it won’t shoot your blood sugar levels up and down). While we in the west most commonly eat the colorful beetroot, the beet greens are higher in nutritional value; they are richer in calcium, iron and vitamins A and C. Nevertheless, the roots are a great source of folic acid, fiber, manganese and potassium and have long been recognized for their benefit to the liver and the body’s detoxification process. 2 Beet roots are also gaining recognition for their reported anticancer properties, as the pigment that gives them their rich purpose-reddish color (betacyanin) is a powerful cancer-fighting agent.3.  They are known in Ayurveda to help with blood disorders.

Chard is often referred to as “Swiss Chard” here in the U.S.; a name which was used  to distinguish it from French spinach varieties by 19th century seed catalog publishers4. The funny thing is that from my experience people in Switzerland have no idea what you’re talking about when you say “Swiss Chard”.  We in the U.S. again tend to be a bit too particular about which parts of chard we eat by generally eating just the greens.5.  My husband and I worked on a farm in the south of France with a sagacious frenchwomen Marie.  Marie cooked us a wonderful soup the first night, and I was astonished to observe her peeling off all the greens of the freshly picked chard and throwing them in the compost – while chopping and adding just the stocks to the pot! But it was delicious, and surprisingly tender. I’ve since enjoyed cooking the stalks of the rainbow chard varieties (but opt to throw in the greens as well), as they add a wonderful array of colors to any dish. You definitely need to cook the stalks quite a bit (i.e. they take about the same time to cook as beetroot), and even so they won’t be meltingly tender like spinach.   As for its nutritional value, swiss chard is an excellent source of carotenes, vitamins C, E and K (good for bones), dietary fiber and chlorophyll and it’s a good source of minerals like magnesium, potassium, iron and manganese.6.  Like beets, chard is also considered a powerful anticancer food, and in particular it has performed well in several research studies focusing on digestive tract cancers.7.

Beetroots, beetgreens, chard greens and chard stalks are all edible and nutritious, and they are a great way to add some colorful delight to vegetable dishes, pilafs, soups, salads or just about anything.

  1. Murray, Michael. The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods (2005), 165 []
  2. Murray, 165 []
  3. Murray, 165 []
  4. Wikipedia, Chard []
  5. National Geographic, Edible: An Illustrated Guide to the World’s Food Plants (2008), 167 []
  6. Murray, 239 []
  7. Murray, 239 []

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