Chard is my favorite green leafy veggie, and in our summer garden we devote an entire raised bed to this nutritious botanical rainbow. In past years, we’ve tried growing collards and kale and spinach (all of which we love), but faced an unrelenting constant battle with the white flies that always seemed to overtake every last green leafy patch and we finally just gave up and said, “No. More.” But….Rainbow Chard always did remarkably well with practically no effort whatsoever, hence it not only became one of our favorite things to grow, but our favorite summer garden item to eat all the time. We add chard to absolutely everything in the summer time, from morning omelets and lunchtime salads to simple dinner additions (sautéed with lots of garlic and onions) and within the past two years, we’ve been making large batches of this Rainbow Chard Spanakopita when we have an abundance of chard in mid summer. One batch of this lasts us for almost a week, and it never gets old.
I know that health fads come and go, and every year there’s always a new “super veggie” that levitates onto the natural health pedestal as being so much better than all the others and, “What are you waiting for?? Add this to ALL your smoothies!” headlines blanket social media. That’s fine…I see it. I read about it. But my love and devotion of chard will never waver. I wade through my summer chard patch and whisper…”It’s been you all along. You’ll always be my veggie ally…don’t let those headlines get you down”… Chard doesn’t need fleeting headlines. It knows it’s the best and doesn’t need the constant praise to prove it.
I developed a fondness for rainbow chard (and Swiss chard) in college. It was always cheaper than any of the other greens so that’s what found it’s way into my kitchen most of the time. I cooked with it constantly and I love the way it tastes. Slightly earthy with a subtle sweetness and a bit of a bitter undertone. Fast forward to graduate school and I’m still eating the heck out of this while learning that, nutritionally, chard really is the unsung and often overlooked nutrient dense green that nobody’s eating. It’s full of magnesium, potassium, calcium, iron, zinc, fiber and phytonutrients, along with vitamin C and A and lots of vitamin K. Vitamin K is essential for calcium absorption (something I really need), and I’m often always looking for extra sources of vitamin K in my diet to support bone health. The colorful stems (white, yellow and red) all contain nutrients as well, most notably carotenoids which are fantastic for eye health, and when I cook this up I’m always using the stems in every recipe too.
Rainbow Chard Spanakopita is easy and forgiving. It takes the outline of a traditional spinach based Spanakopita but incorporates chard in place of the spinach. You can use either Filo or puff pastry, and traditionally a Spanakopita recipe calls for lots of butter (which is fine to use in this recipe as well – still works), however I prefer ghee so that’s what I often use. Good quality cheese can make all the difference for a good batch too, so if you’ve got a good source for high quality feta – definitely opt for that.
Photos by Renee Byrd