Comparing Spinach and Swiss Chard

chard

Swiss chard

Both spinach and Swiss chard are leaf vegetables that many people enjoy eating. Some people can’t tell the difference between the two, since the appearance and flavor is quite similar. So how do they compare with one another?



Botanically, the two plants are totally different species. Spinach (Spinacia oleracea) is a member of the amaranth family. Chard (Beta vulgaris) is a member of the chenopod family. It should be noted that beets also have the scientific name of Beta vulgaris because beets and chard are the same species. The main difference between the two is that beets are primarily grown for the roots while chard is mainly grown for the leaves. Beet leaves and chard are basically the same thing.

Chard also originated in the Mediterranean region while spinach got its start in Persia. Incidentally, the name “chard” comes from the Latin “carduus”, which means artichoke thistle, though it obviously isn’t a thistle or related to artichokes.

Despite being entirely different species and belonging to completely different plant families, spinach and chard are amazingly similar. In fact, they are more alike than they are unalike. As mentioned, they look and taste similar, though chard tends to have a milder flavor. They are alike in other ways, too.

These plants favor the same growing conditions and both tend to grow vigorously in cool temperatures. Both are biennial, requiring two years to produce seeds. They are harvested in the same way and they can be interchanged in the same recipes.

So how do they compare, nutritionally? They are quite similar in this, too. Both are very low in fat content, though chard has about half the fat that spinach does. Neither contains cholesterol. Chard does contain almost three times as much sodium, though neither is exceptionally high in this mineral.

Both are quite low in calories. A hundred grams of chard has about 19 calories while the same amount of spinach has 23.

Both are very high in vitamin A, C and K, although chard has nearly twice as much of the last vitamin. Both are good sources of vitamin E and riboflavin. Spinach contains nearly ten times more folate.

The two vegetables are also comparable in minerals and are good sources of iron, magnesium, potassium, copper and manganese. Note: Chard and spinach are comparable in the amount of iron they contain. It is a myth that spinach is exceptionally high in iron and the myth was encouraged by the Popeye cartoon. The cause of the myth was a simple mathematical error of dropping a decimal point. It was found that 100 g of spinach contains about 2.71 mg of iron. However, when it was written down, the transcriber wrote it as 271 mg of iron, which would indeed be exceptionally high.

One thing that could be said, however, is that since the body needs vitamin C in order to properly absorb iron, and as both of these plants contain a large amount of vitamin C, both are valuable sources of dietary iron.

What all of this boils down to is that although spinach and swiss chard are completely different plants, they are so similar in so many ways that the differences aren’t worth much mention. Both are extremely healthy. If you prefer chard to spinach, eat chard. If you prefer spinach, eat spinach. You are getting virtually the same nutrients from either. Both are easy to grow and harvest, too. Spinach and chard also are great for both spring and fall plantings.



Put in another way, what you can say about one of these plants, you can probably also say of the other.






  • Comments

      1. Profile photo of Rex Trulove
        Rex Trulove Post author

        Thank you for the stumble. We only have a six foot row of chard (I need to plant more), but we had a nice potful night before last and I’ll be able to harvest enough for another potful today. I didn’t grow spinach this year, but I often grow both spinach and chard. It isn’t uncommon for me to mix the two together when I steam a pot of these veggies.

      2. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne

        @andriaperry Now I know why it was already discovered when I went to Stumble this post! I did have an issue with the image not displaying when I tried to pin the post. Sad, because the chard in the photo is so pretty! Will have a little look around and see if this is something Mike needs to fix.

    1. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
      Kyla Matton Osborne

      We also like to cook both together. I think I like the spinach slightly better for its milder taste, and if I’m preparing the dish raw (as a salad) that’s always my pick of the two. But I love the texture and the gorgeous colour of the chard.

      I don’t know if it’s been your experience, but I found chard easier to grow than spinach. And it will come back year after year, if you let it!

      1. Profile photo of Rex Trulove
        Rex Trulove Post author

        I haven’t had difficulties growing either here in the north. We did let one chard plant come back this year, but that was mostly so I could let it go to seed, which it did quickly. It has been too cool this year in Montana to get an early start on much, so nearly everything is just beginning to ripen now. Our typical winters have days that are 50 below and weeks at a time when the temperatures don’t get above 0, though, so if I want it to come back, I cover it with a mulch of leaves. (We had purple cabbage that came back this spring, too.)

        I just planted some more chard and a second planting of beans today, though, for a late harvest. I also planted some beets, since we hadn’t planted any yet, and just for the heck of it, I planted some radishes in a window box.

        I totally love chard lightly steamed, using only the water clinging to the leaves after rinsing, with real butter, salt and pepper. With spinach, we usually drench it in quality vinegar. The last chard we had, a couple nights ago, I steamed it and used balsamic vinegar that had been sweetened. I was surprised at how excellent it tasted.

    2. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
      Kyla Matton Osborne

      We’re just a bit farther north, LOL! I’m in Canada 🙂

      The last time I tried to grow spinach was in Quebec during a drought. So that might have something to do with the lack of success, LOL! That part of the yard got up to 100 F in the worst heat of the day, but the spinach was shaded a bit. The chard was right in the same plot, and it flourished. We were eating chard from the snowy garden in January that year. The spinach came up, but it died off almost right away.

      1. Profile photo of Rex Trulove
        Rex Trulove Post author

        The drought no doubt had a lot to do with it. I’m about 40 miles south of the Alberta border and in the Rocky Mountains, but we’ve already had several days that were close to 110. The chard complained. LOL We just drenched it with water at ground level, though, and it perked right up. Last year, when we grew both chard and spinach, it was even hotter and the same method pulled them both through. it just took a little longer. The chard and spinach were in the same row, half a row of each.

        It also taught me a valuable lesson about using shade breaks during the afternoon heat. Neither chard nor spinach like the heat much, but this year our chard is shaded by a big catnip patch and some tall tomato plants; both of which are over three feet tall. It still doesn’t like the high temperatures, but the shade in the hottest part of the day has stopped it from wilting as badly every day. I can’t say the same about the zucchini and pumpkins, though. They have such large leaves that it is easy for them to transpire more moisture than the roots can soak up, and since they cover so much ground, it becomes an issue to find ways to shade them. 🙂 Still, the squash and pumpkin loves the heat and rebounds quickly without having the leaves getting sunburned, as can sometimes happen with the chard. I’m actually trellising one of the pumpkin plants and it is surprising how much that is helping, as long as I can keep the deer at bay.

        One of the things I love about living in the mountains, too, is that it cools off reasonably fast when the sun goes down. Even when our daytime highs are 110, by an hour after sundown, they are down into the 70s or below. (Today got to 88 and the sun went down about an hour and a half ago; it is already in the 60s.)

      2. Profile photo of Kyla Matton Osborne
        Kyla Matton Osborne

        We’ve noticed the same thing, living in the Kootenays now. The days can sometimes get up to about 85-90 here, but it cools off to maybe 60 or less overnight. When we were in Quebec, the nights were almost as hot as the days. It was very unpleasant when the humidity was high. Neither plants nor people ever had the chance to cool off.

    3. Profile photo of Gil Camporazo
      Gil Camporazo

      I don’t have the sufficient knowledge about spinach. What I know is the spinach eaten by Popeye . Then, he has the super power. I don’t know what i the equivalent name of that vegetable in our country.

      1. Profile photo of Rex Trulove
        Rex Trulove Post author

        @nakitakona13, in Tagalog, it would be “alugbati”. It is also often referred to in the Philippines as espinada, which is actually the Spanish name for spinach. 🙂 The super power the Popeye gets from eating spinach is all based on the mistake made when the amount of iron it contains was first written down. Iron is needed for the development of strong muscles, so when the person wrote down that spinach had 100 times more iron than it actually has, spinach seemed to be something that would cause a person to get very strong, very fast. 🙂

      2. Profile photo of Gil Camporazo
        Gil Camporazo

        If it is “alugbati”, I have no problem of having it. Alugbati is abundantly grown in our place. It is easy to plant by its seed or by cutting. When it i cooked, it gives off an aromatic smell and it is yummy to eat. Thank you for giving me that information.

    4. Profile photo of Rex Trulove
      Rex Trulove Post author

      You are quite welcome. 🙂 Many things that go by one name in one location have a different name elsewhere and clarifying that can be helpful to quite a few people. A long time ago, when I first started writing about zucchini squash, a number of European friends didn’t know what I was talking about until I mentioned that zucchinis and courgettes are the same thing. That is an example. By the way, in Tagalog, zucchini is patola. 😀

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