25 January 2016

Are chard roots edible? (and are they worth eating?)

At the weekend, I was clearing some old chard plants from a bed, and was surprised by quite how large their roots were. Some of them were the size of a large carrot. It got me wondering, are they edible? And if so, are they worth eating? The edibility question is easily answered. Chard is a close relative of the beetroot, and they share a common ancestor. From this common ancestor, our forefathers developed two strains, beetroot primarily for its sweet roots, and chard for its tasty leaves. Chard has a biennial life cycle, and in its first year mainly puts on green growth. When it overwinters, some of its leaves die back, and the plant develops a large root in which it stores energy, from which to put forth a flower stalk the following spring. Chard's closeness to beetroot means that this root clearly can be eaten, which leaves the second question, is it worth it?

Chard roots

The roots were pretty grubby and needed a good scrub. Once cleaned, they revealed an attractive range of colours, which hinted at their common ancestry with beetroots. I peeled them and cut them into chunks. They seemed a little fibrous, and I suspected would require a bit of cooking. I wanted to cook them in a way where I could get a good idea of their flavour, but which would also give a little help in the flavour department. I decided to cook them 'a la Vichy', a method usually used for carrots. I simmered them in a little water, butter, honey, salt and pepper until the liquid evaporated and the chard roots were soft.

The verdict? Despite their close relationship to beetroot, chard roots lack the sweetness of beetroot. Adding a little honey in the cooking helped them. They do have a certain earthy flavour, which is reminiscent of beetroot. In many ways they taste like chard stems, but with the texture of a root vegetable. They have a slight bitterness, but nothing that that wasn't kept in check by the honey and the butter. Overall while they didn't blow me away, they were a pleasant-enough side dish, particularly in January when the veg plot has little to offer. Although I certainly wouldn't bother to grow chard for their roots alone, eating the roots does eke out a final harvest from plants which have already given a high yield of greens over a long period. If you are the sort of gardener who likes to get the maximum yield from their veg plot, or wan to try something new, I'd recommend giving them a go at least once.

Chard roots a la Vichy

2 comments:

  1. I love your resourcefulness. I enjoy chard stems, so I'll bet I would at least like there. Wonder if any farmers from my local market would bring me a few if I asked. Thanks for sharing this clever idea. Cheers, D

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    1. Thanks Domenica. Good luck in tracking down some chard roots!

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