Swiss Chard is a colorful cousin of spinach native to the Mediterranean, though a bit heartier. This is a nutrient-dense vegetable with a similar nutritional profile as kale. Of particular note, 1 cup of cooked Swiss chard has
- 214% of the RDI of Vitamin AM
- 716% of the RDI of Vitamin
- 38% of the RDI for magnesium
- 27% of the RDI for potassium
Swiss chard is also an easy vegetable to grow, particularly for beginners. It’s an early spring crop (or winter if you live in a warmer climate that doesn’t freeze often), and once it’s mature, you simply cut what you want to use. The plant will continue to produce throughout the season. It doesn’t like extreme heat, so beware of heat waves. In my yard, goldfinches are the main pest.
In working on this article, I came across some other writings on “the dangers of Swiss chard”, particularly from here. This author has a concern about oxalates in Swiss chard, claiming this is a poison, and citing several studies. Oxalate is found as a compound in some foods, including Swiss chard, and is excreted through urine. Apparently there is a link between excess oxalate and both gout and kidney stones. Following the references this author cites in her blog, these are pretty biased sources, in my opinion. Two of the references only concentrate on the toxicity of star fruit in rats. The third examines dialysis patients and the effects of excess star fruit consumption. All of these patients were uremic (had high levels of urea in the blood). To extrapolate these three articles and conclude that Swiss chard is poison is dishonest. Excess consumption of oxalates to the point of toxicity is very rare. There is a 2015 case from the New England Journal of Medicine about a man who suffered acute oxalate nephropathy “almost certainly due to an excessive consumption of iced tea.” (He drank about 4 liters of iced tea per day.) In summary, eating Swiss chard has not been shown to be toxic for you, unless you have gout or kidney stone problems. Even then, the clinical evidence isn’t fully conclusive. Chances are, you won’t want Swiss chard often enough to even consider the possibility of oxalate overconsumption.
That said, this week’s recipe will shake up breakfast a bit by pairing Swiss chard with the rich yolk of a fried egg.
Fried Eggs with Swiss Chard and Bell Pepper (Serves 4. Total time: 25 minutes)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 lbs Swiss Chard,stemmed. (You should end up with 1 cup stems chopped fine, with the leaves sliced into 1/2″ wide strips)
- 5 minced garlic cloves (Be sure to really mince the garlic finely. More pungent garlicky flavor is released the more garlic is chopped.)
- 4 large eggs (or more if you like)
- 1 small red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and diced
- pinch red pepper flakes
- Lemon wedges for serving (optional)
- 12 in. skillet (If using cast iron, watch the heat retention and use extra oil. If using regular aluminum or copper, increase oil as well.)
- colander and bowl
- Heat oil and garlic over medium-low heat until the garlic is golden and fragrant (about 3 minutes).
- Increase heat to medium-high and add the chopped chard stems, toss lightly, then add the chard leaves one handful at a time until the leaves have wilted. (This will take about 2 minutes.)
- Stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes and bloom until fragrant, which will take about 30 seconds.
- Add diced bell pepper and red pepper flakes and cook about 3 minutes. Transfer to colander set in a bowl.
- Add a bit more olive oil or butter if necessary, and fry the desired number of eggs, in batches if necessary. If you want runny yolks, cook about 1 minute and 15 seconds (you don’t necessarily have to flip the eggs). For soft-set yolks, cook 2 minutes. You can choose to flip (carefully!) at the minute mark for this version. For medium-set yolks, cook 3 minutes total: 2 on one side, 1 on the other. For hard-set yolks….don’t.
- Divide the Swiss chard mixture among 4 plates, top with fried eggs, and serve with lemon wedges, if desired.
If you prefer, you can also substitute bacon grease or ghee for the olive oil.
- America’s Test Kitchen. Vegetables Illustrated(2019). ISBN: 978-194-525-6738
- “The Old Farmer’s Almanac” Link
- Syed, Fahd; Mena Gutiérrez, Alejandra; Ghaffar, Umbar (2 April 2015). “A Case of Iced-Tea Nephropathy”. New England Journal of Medicine. 372 (14): 1377–1378