White, yellow or strong red, the chard literally shines in these colors in the garden. When cooking, however, the colorful stems discolor, which makes them look unsightly, especially in dishes that take a long time to prepare. When preparing with heat, many other ingredients suffer, which, due to the trend towards raw food, raised the question of whether the colorful stalks of chard are edible raw.
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All types of chard – regardless of whether it is leaf or stem chard – have experienced a real boom in recent years. An almost forgotten vegetable is back in focus and brings color to the plate. Not only are the plates colourful, but the chard stalks and leaves contain numerous healthy plant substances.
The following ingredients are found in chard:
- Vitamins (A, E, K)
- To demand
Among the vegetables, the aerial parts of Swiss chard are one of the varieties that have the most vitamin K. The vitamin is responsible for many processes in the body. This includes, for example, blood clotting, bone metabolism or the regulation of cell growth.
Problematic oxalic acid
However, one ingredient, oxalic acid, tarnishes the positive balance of Swiss chard. Chard leaves and stalks have been among the top veggies containing oxalic acid. Although oxalic acid is metabolized in the body and excreted in the urine, the organs can no longer handle excessively large amounts. This promotes the formation of kidney stones.
If the parts of the plant are heated to a temperature of over 150°C, the oxalic acid breaks down into various hydrocarbons and water. This means it can be eaten later without hesitation.
Toxic or not?
Oxalic acid is contained in many different foods, some of which are eaten raw. These include, for example, the following popular vegetables:
Some of them all also have a high proportion of oxalic acid, which, however, is far exceeded by Swiss chard. Therefore, compared to the stalks of the chard, this vegetable is also edible without hesitation. Oxalic acid itself is not toxic and can even be very tasty in small amounts. In larger quantities, however, it overstrains the body and it no longer breaks it down.
In theory, it would be possible to eat the styles raw, but only in very small amounts. Another factor that speaks against eating it raw is taste. Raw chard leaves and stalks occasionally have an off-flavor that is greatly improved by cooking. Even as part of raw food dishes, this taste can be so dominant that it can negatively affect the taste of entire dishes.
If you use the chard stalks raw, you should do so very sparingly. The fibers, which you should remove, can interfere with consumption. Then cut the chard into fine slices or use a vegetable slicer. In this form you can use the stems for the following dishes:
Beware of pre-existing conditions
You should avoid raw chard if you already have pre-existing kidney conditions. If you have problems with your kidneys, even the smallest amounts of foods with a high content of oxalic acid are sufficient, which can make these problems even worse. In particular, eating raw stalks increases the risk of kidney stone formation.
If the chard develops flowers, you should eat it neither raw nor cooked. In this state, the oxalic acid content is not only the highest, the taste and consistency suffer considerably. You can dispose of blooming chard plants as a whole on the compost or you can wait until the seeds are ripe and collect your own seeds.