Ruby Red Swiss Chard is the sweet version of the common chard. It is also known as Rhubarb Swiss Chard. This heirloom variety was native to the Mediterranean region, where it was first introduced in 1857. It features a beautiful candy apple red stalks and veins, along with dark green and wrinkled leaves. Thus, it makes a pretty ornamental crop for your gardens. Nevertheless, it also makes a highly nutritious vegetable crop. Like the common chard, this variety is also closely related to beets. But, it’s much older than them – since ancient times. As a matter of fact, Aristotle mentioned this red-stalked chard around 350 BC. In 1848, it was listed among the beets. Thus, it provides the sweetness and earthiness flavors of beetroot with the salinity and bitterness of spinach. It can be eaten raw or cooked.
Binomial Name: Beta Vulgaris subsp. Cicla var. Flavescens
Ruby Red Swiss Chard Trivia
- Although the Ruby Red Swiss chard is related to beet, its roots are inedible.
- This variety is often confused with rhubarb. While their combination of colors are the same, they are from a different family. While all parts of the Ruby Red Swiss chard contain oxalic acid that can form urinary tract stones, rhubarb leaves contain higher concentrations, making it poisonous for human consumption.
- Ruby Red Swiss chard also has its subvarieties. The most popular ones include Magenta Sunset, Rhubarb, and Vulcan.
- Betalain pigments are the ones responsible for this plant’s bright red color. These pigments are crucial for the plant’s survival as it attracts insects and bees for pollination while providing natural UV protection.
Ruby Red Swiss Chard Buying Guide
- Buy the ones that have boras, wavy, and crinkly leaves with celery-like stalks. The stalks should be strong enough to hold their crisp leaves high when you stand them vertically. Avoid leaves that are wilting.
- When you slice them, they should have a fresh and moist-looking cut.
- The leaves should be slightly glossy with even coloring. Avoid leaves that are starting to turn yellow or brown. Also, avoid the ones with black spots or holes.
- If possible, buy organic Red Swiss chards during their peak season. Organic Swiss chards might not be as perfectly shaped as the conventional or GMO ones, but they’re more tender, sweeter, and more nutritious. Not to mention that they’re kinder to the planet too.
- As always, Red Swiss chards from farmers’ markets are better than the ones in stores. Here, the products are usually organic and you might be able to taste them before you buy them.
Ruby Red Swiss Chard Production & Farming in Texas
Ruby Red Swiss chard is a biennial plant that prefers cool weather for optimal growth. It can tolerate frost but not a hard freeze. Thus in North Texas, it is best planted in the late winter or early spring, and once again in September. Start planting in rich and well-drained soil with a generous amount of compost and/or a well-balanced fertilizer. Red Swiss chards thrive best in full sun, but partial sun also works fine. These crops take 50-60 days from germination to harvest but younger and tender leaves can be harvested as soon as the plant reaches 6 inches tall. You can take out the whole plant at the soil’s surface. However, if you prefer to continue growing this plant for another harvest, leave at least an inch of stem. Overall, just remember that high-fertility soil, adequate water, and cool temperatures are the keys to growing a successful Ruby Red Swiss chard.
Conventional or organically grown, fruits and vegetables are essential components of a healthy diet. However, many of these contain potentially harmful pesticides, even after thorough washing, peeling, or scrubbing. Thus, what we can only do is to be aware of which items are the most or least contaminated.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is an American group that focuses on the advocacy of agricultural subsidies, pollutants, and toxic chemicals. They have created the Dirty Dozen List, which is being updated each year to rank fruits and vegetables that contain the highest pesticide contamination based on the samples tested by the USDA and FDA.
Fortunately, Ruby Red Swiss chard is not on the 2020 Dirty Dozen list. But, it’s not on the clean list as well. Generally speaking, leafy greens are susceptible to pests. That’s why they are often grown with high amounts of pesticides. And, it’s not something that can just be washed away with water. Even after a thorough cleaning, residues remain on the crop. Therefore, it would be better to buy organic Red Swiss chards to reduce your pesticide consumption.
Italy remains to be the leading producer of Swiss chard globally. In the United States, California dominates the production but Utah also features a well-suited soil. Meanwhile, the fertile soil and climate of South Texas suits the Ruby Red Swiss chard so well. Thus, it is more prevalently grown here than the green ones.
Retail Ruby Red Swiss chard usually comes in loose plastic bags. They are packaged by the bunch or bundle but they’re priced by the weight. But, if you’re planning to buy on wholesale, go to your nearest local producer, and you can get these chards in bushels, cartons, and even crates.
Enjoying Ruby Red Swiss Chards
Ruby Red Swiss Chards can be enjoyed raw or cooked. Treat them like kales or spinach and enjoy them as a salad, or cook them as you would on asparagus. Sautéed Red Swiss chard leaves on butter, olive oil, smoked salt, and paprika is one of the traditional dishes you can make. Or, you can stir-fry both the leaves and stalks on olive or sesame oil and garlic, along with some sesame seeds and a tablespoon or two of good quality soy sauce for a quick Chinese delicacy.
Unlike the other leafy greens, Red Swiss chards are best stored unwashed. Otherwise, it will deteriorate easily. Thus, it is highly recommended that you wash them prior to usage or cooking. Still, they are best kept in a sealable container like ziplock bags. Yet, keep them loosely wrapped. You can also separate the stalks from the leaves. And, it’ll also help if you squeeze them to remove the air out. Place some paper towels in between the layers so that the extra moisture will be absorbed. Keep them in the refrigerator, with the vegetable drawer being the best spot, where they’ll last for 3-5 days, or you can freeze it if you want to prolong their shelf life for up to a year. Change the paper towels every now and then for fresher chards.
Meanwhile, if you are growing Red Swiss chards at home and you simply want to stock them in your freezer, thoroughly wash the chards first. Then, separate the stalks from the leaves. You may opt to chop them or leave them whole. Blanch the stalks and leaves separately in boiling water for 2 minutes and transfer them into an ice bath and shock for 1 minute. Drain and pat dry using paper towels. Loosely wrap them in a paper towel-lined ziplock bag and try to remove as much air as possible before putting it in the freezer.
To ensure this chard’s even cooking, it’d be best to separate the leaves from its stalks. The leaves provide an earthy flavor while the stalks provide a little tartness. Cook the leaves as you would for spinach and the stalks as you would for asparagus. And just like spinach leaves, chard leaves can hold themselves when cooked in dishes like casseroles, soups, stews, and gratins. You can also blanch, steam, or add these leaves on stir-fries. In fact, a lot of people enjoy steaming it with a little bacon fat. They tend to soften a little bit when cooked, providing a milder flavor. Another popular method is to blanch it and use it in lieu of basil for pesto, spinach for ravioli, or cannelloni fillings. Meanwhile, cooked stalks make a great topper to pizzas, soups, stews, and sauces.
- Carbohydrates: Red Swiss chard is naturally low in calories and carbohydrates, which comes mostly from the fiber. It is also low in glycemic load.
- Fiber: Red Swiss chard is a good source of fiber. One 175 g-cup of this provides about 4 grams of fiber, leading to 15% of the reference daily intake.
- Vitamins and Minerals: Red Swiss chard is loaded with vitamins and minerals. A cup of this vegetable provides three times the RDA of vitamin K, 44% RDA of vitamin A, and 18% RDA of vitamin C. It’s also a good source of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, vitamin E, folate, as well as alpha and beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, lutein, and choline. However, it’s best not to add more salt in chards as it already contains 4.5% of RDA for sodium.
- Red Swiss chard promotes weight loss because of its high water and low sugar content. Thus, it is very low in calories and it’ll help you feel more satisfied and full after eating.
- Red Swiss chard belongs to the family of cruciferous vegetables, along with cabbage, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and others. Studies prove that consuming these kinds of vegetables offers the best cardiovascular health benefits. In addition, it also helps in reducing the risk of cancer.
- The high levels of vitamin K also promote better bone health, especially for postmenopausal women. Thus, it can prevent osteoporosis, while improving the absorption of calcium in our body.
- The high levels of vitamin C acts as an antioxidant. It helps in boosting immunity and repairing cells, which retards the human aging process.
- The high levels of vitamin A promotes healthy vision. It also helps in preventing cancer too.
- The minerals found in the Red Swiss chard lowers the blood pressure by releasing sodium out of the body, helping in the dilation of arteries.
- The antioxidant alpha-lipoic acid in the Red Swiss chard has been proven to lower glucose levels, increase insulin sensitivity, and prevent oxidative stress-induced changes for diabetic patients.
- The dietary nitrates in the Red Swiss chard have been proven to improve athletic performance through muscle oxygenation.
When Are Ruby Red Swiss Chard in Season in Texas?
To find out when Ruby Red Swiss Chard are in season in Texas, please check the seasonal chart below. Why is this important? We are rarely encouraged to think about the physical lengths our food travels before arriving on the market shelves. And all of this travel comes with a hefty environmental cost that is concealed from the consumer’s eye. One of the most salient benefits to eating seasonally is that you are effectively reducing your carbon footprint and supporting a more geographically sustainable food economy. Check other fruit and veg that’s in season in Texas now.