Swiss chard is a leafy green vegetable often used in Mediterranean cooking. Chard is derived from the 14th century word carde, which is from the Latin cardus, which means artichoke thistle. Why the vegetable is called Swiss is more mysterious; the plant is not native to Switzerland, and is neither commonly grown there nor often used in Swiss cuisine. Some attribute its name to Gaspard Bauhin, a Swiss botanist who first described the plant.
Like other leafy greens, Swiss chard is highly nutritious. The leaf blades are commonly green, but can also be reddish in color, and the stalks are usually white, yellow or red. Fresh young Swiss chard can be used raw in salads, but mature plants are more often sautéed. Recipes sometimes call for cooking the stalks longer than the blades because they are thicker and therefore may require more time to become tender. Once cooked, the plant’s bitterness fades, resulting in a refined flavor considered by some to be more delicate than that of spinach.