Chard (Beta vulgaris var. cicla), also known by the common names Swiss Chard, Silverbeet, Perpetual Spinach, Spinach Beet, Crab Beet, Seakale Beet and Mangold, is a leafy vegetable, and is one of the cultivated descendants of the sea beet, Beta vulgaris subsp. maritima. Although the leaves are eaten, it is in the same species as beetroot (garden beet) which is usually grown primarily for its edible roots.
The word Swiss was used to distinguish chard from French spinach varieties by 19th century seed catalog publishers. The chard is very popular among Mediterranean cooks. The first varieties have been traced back to Sicily.
Chard can be harvested while the leaves are young and tender or after maturity when they are larger and have slightly tougher stems. Chard is extremely perishable.
Chard has shiny green ribbed leaves, with stems that range from white to yellow and red depending on the cultivar. It has a slightly bitter taste. Fresh young chard can be used raw in salads. Mature chard leaves and stalks are typically cooked (like in pizzoccheri) or sauteed; their bitterness fades with cooking, leaving a refined flavor which is more delicate than that of cooked spinach.